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Social media: from broadcast to dialogue

india Updated: Apr 24, 2011 22:26 IST
Swapan Seth

If orange is the new black in fashion, social media is the new orange in marketing. Brands, like headless chickens, are squatting on social sites without a plan or a defined personality.

The results of this hurried occupancy are pages that are physically there but no way on the same page as the consumers that they seek. Worse still, most brands do not even know what consumers they seek and what those consumers seek from social media.

Agencies, on the other hand, are fattening their digital cows with mediocre talent (of course there are some splendid exceptions to every such rule). Sadly, the digital space, from a talent perspective, has become a parking lot rather than a racing track. All things considered, a magical mess.

I think the fundamental question that both agencies and brands need to answer before they breast the social space finishing tape is one: what will be enhanced through the brand’s foray into this space?

If the answer is we will reach out to the youth, then I suggest you revisit your plans. Reaching out to the youth is a noble aspiration for most brands. What they fail to understand is why would the youth reach out to them?

How strong are the flyovers between the brand and youth? What are the conversations that the youth are engaged in?

How can the brand capture those conversations? Make them theirs and then draw the youth into those conversations?

That to me is the challenge.

And optimist that I am, the opportunity for the future. The future, in my estimation, will belong to a constellation of conversationalists. Not to a broadcast station called a digital agency. Because honestly that is the kind of content that digital agencies throw up. Mostly.

The baton needs to urgently move from broadcast to dialogue. Brand bars buzzing with great conversations between brands and consumers. Linguiplexes. Conversation cafes.

A decade ago, sociologists spoke of “ third places”, non-threatening environments where consumers would interact. The social space is the fourth place.

What place will your brand have there? Think about it.
The writer is CEO, Equus Red Cell