What is your social strategy? Are you trying to increase the amount of positive consumer generated media (CGM) for your brand or are you trying to inspire and manage brand advocacy? The media mindset thinks in terms of CGM. How can they make more of that and put it in all the places where customers will find it. How they “make” that media happen is a means to a simple end.
The social mindset thinks in terms of genuine brand advocacy. How can we give customers, employees, stakeholders a reason and a means to share a sincerely positive point of view about a brand with their friends, family and people ‘like them?’ How they make that advocacy happen is more than a means to an end, it is indivisible from the end.
The VIP Deals Deal
It’s not just semantics. Look at the recently reported case of VIP Deals offering free iPad covers (their product) to customers who submitted a favorable review on Amazon. The NYTimes covered this recently and even posted the deal memo sent to customers here. Their goal was to generate overwhelmingly positive reviews. They offered the value of the product price ($30-$35 retail?), told the customer the action they wanted to take and insinuated the tone of that review. Can you split hairs and say that they did not require a favorable review? Perhaps. But there is no mistaking their intention. They wanted to “buy” favorable reviews, consumer generated media, to dominate a channel, Amazon reviews.
The review space has long been suspected of abuse. Employees giving their own hotel, restaurant, lawnmower a positive review. We imagine pay-per-review farms in off shore locations and more incentive programs like VIP Deals than are ever revealed. It is not clear what most consumers think of product reviews. I would guess that there is a large amount of skepticism even while we all still look at them to make quick judgments (who wouldn’t download the 4 star weather app on iTunes over the 1.5 star – presuming similar price?)
Media or Advocacy?
Brand marketers must decide what their intention is – media or advocacy. That choice will inherently guide their actions. Big, multi-national brands need to make this choice more than any small business. What they do in one market will quickly infect another. It’s not as simple as saying “when in China….” All local activity is now global. The danger in a pure media mindset is the possibility of losing sight of what makes social media so powerful – its ability to earn people’s advocacy and share that at a large scale.
Getting the right actions and intentions
- One of the best resources for brand and business leaders on practical social media ethics remains the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (disclosure: we are a governing member and I remain as a non-voting board member). Their ethics code and disclosure guidelines are a foundation that any brand marketer can apply with confidence.
- We have just updated our Ogilvy Social Media Engagement Code which is being reviewed in draft form but I have shared here. We have had a social media-related ethics code in place since 2005 and find it invaluable to rally our global network around. This is how we roll.