Remember that ALL zones in the social media mix are networked around relationships, technologically enabled, and based on the principles of shared participation. How do others see us? Social communities strive to design their interfaces in ways that meet the needs of members, and establishing our sense of self online is important. For this reason, communities may offer identity reflectors: an option to have one’s profile reflected back to them from the perspective of others.2 Sites may also offer members the opportunity to utilize identity cards. Identity cards are the social version of a business card. They are small digital badges that people can embed in emails and on websites to share their contact information and social affiliations. At some level everyone manages the impressions they make on others and social media is no different. Not only do we want our profiles to reflect our social selves, we might also want to protect our privacy and promote somewhat different personas to different reference groups. People are multifaceted and this increasingly is reflected in digital profiles. You may have different profiles on different sites or even within the same site such that different reference groups see identity details you customize for them.
All of these indicators enhance the perception of ambient intimacy we have with those in our network. This term refers to our ability to stay in touch, using digital communications and social media, with people to whom we wouldn’t otherwise have access to due to time limitations and geographic dispersion.
You might think that most of the activity on a network is directed communication, but most users interact only with a very small core of people in their network. Research shows that most people can maintain only around 150 meaningful relationships, online and off—this figure has become known as Dunbar’s number (named after the researcher who first reported this pattern). Although you may “friend” 5,000 people on Facebook, all but roughly 150 of them are relative strangers that only follow your life with limited interest.
As we read status updates and posts from those in our network, we feel that they are communicating with us, even if they posted these updates a while ago. In other words, directed communication is active whereas consumption communication is passive. That’s ambient intimacy in action. But it requires the public sharing of content to work because without shared content, there’s nothing for us to consume.
A recent study of social media users found that 75 percent of people are likely to share content using social media channels. The top three reasons people share content “socially” are because they find it interesting and/or entertaining, they think it could be helpful to others, and to get a laugh. Although the content can be virtually anything you can send in digital form, most people reported sharing family pictures and video, news about family and friends, funny videos, news articles and blog posts, and coupons and discounts. Finally, sites encourage sharing when they reward participation with reputation indicators. People like to be acknowledged for their contributions. Sites can award top status to those who contribute the best and most. Reputation indicators broadcast these contributions; they include participation levels, labels, collectible achievements and awards (badges), and points. Some sites maintain a leader board to highlight the best participants.
The term describes the narrow, deep focus of social networking sites that differentiate themselves because they emphasize some common hobby, interest, or characteristic that draws members to the site.
As social media sites continue to proliferate around the Web, they experience “growing pains” because we are still trying to figure out how to manage all of this new activity.
Social networks can be closed, gated communities entirely controlled by the vendor that offers the platform. At the other extreme they can be accessible to any members or developers who wish to participate.
Complaints about the lack of centralized communities have given rise to the terms social networking fatigue and social lock in. The fatigue comes in part from the need to manage multiple community accounts (and to forego some due to the required investment) as well as from the steady streams of content flowing from multiple networks.
The decision as to whether to grant access to outside developers (and how or if to share in the revenue these applications produce) is one of the most important strategic issues in business today. In contrast to this Open Souce Model, Apple uses a fairly closed model; the company maintains strict control over “apps” that outsiders can sell for its iPhone and iPad and it takes a commission (30 percent) on each sale. Similarly, Sony shares its code for its PlayStation game with only a selected set of licensed developers.
Remember, the social community zone focuses on relationships. By becoming an active participant in these channels, brands can leverage social communities to meet several marketing objectives including promotion and branding, customer service and customer relationship management, and marketing research. How? By advertising within the community space, participating in brand-to-consumer relationships within the chosen communities, and engaging consumers interactively.
Brands earn value in social media when they engage consumers over time (relationship marketing) and when they encourage consumers to interact with the brand and share those interactions with others. Brands stand to benefit from heightened brand loyalty among engaged consumers and a more expansive reach for brand-related messages.
The most frequently used manifestation of CSM is the “create your own ad” contest, which has been used by numerous brands including Frito-Lay, Dove, and Chevy. Sponsors encourage submissions with incentives such as prize money or the chance for the winning entry to be broadcast on television (possibly during high-exposure events such as the Super Bowl and the Oscars). Doritos used this approach with its Crash the Super Bowl campaign.
Doing so increases the opportunities for interactions with customers and prospects and also serves to encourage people to talk about the brand with each other. When a brand profile launches on social networking sites, the brands exist much as people do on the sites. Friends can interact with the brands; share information, photos, and videos; and participate in two-way communication. As we discussed in Chapter 2, brands may participate as a corporate entity, as one or more people representing the brand, or as a mascot. Whichever the choice, the brand will develop a profile to represent its persona and then should interact in keeping with that profile—like a good actor, it should “stay in character.” Building brand personas strengthen brand personality, differentiate brands from competitors, and set the stage for a perceived relationship. Assuming the brand’s persona is likeable and credible, it can facilitate message internalization (the process by which a consumer adopts a brand belief as his or her own). It is a natural expansion of the trend for brands to create personalities for themselves, both through the use of creative language—including style, imagery, tone, and creative appeals—and music.