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Social Media, Your Brand and Your Employees

mediabistrocircusIt looks like there may be a new hiring criteria in the future if Steve Rubel’s thoughts expressed at the Mediabistro Circus are on target and there is evidence that they are. Internetnews.com reports that Rubel’s talk to this group centered on how brands are moving away from the company and more toward people who are the face of the company, i.e. social media front facers who speak on behalf their employer.

Branding is about people, not company names, according to Steve Rubel, Edelman Digital director of insights, Web PR veteran, and author of the Micro Persuasion blog

Some of the highlights include

  • E-mail losing its effectiveness – Press releases sent by e-mail are just part of the e-mail clutter that exists due to sheer volume received and the other outlets that people have like Twitter, texting, RSS etc., etc. He then asked

“How many of you have experienced ‘e-mail bankruptcy,’ where you delete all unread e-mails and assume that if any message was important, the person will contact you again?”

  • Websites are not the answer – The expectation that people will flock to your web site for information is one that many hold on to but it’s simply not as common as marketers want it to be. It’s likely that a similar ‘information overload’ scenario is playing out there as well.

People are the new brand – Here’s where the rubber meets the road. In a study conducted by Edelman it was found that the most trusted information from a company comes from:

Stock or industry analyst reports – 47%
Articles in business magazines – 44%
Conversations with your friends and peers – 40%
Conversations with company employees – 40%
A company’s own web site – 24%
Corporate or product advertising – 13%

Across the board trust about corporate information has dropped significantly from ’08 to ’09. The exception are those that weren’t measured last year including the conversations with company employees.

A personal experience here. I recently read about how GM is trying to reposition itself in the wake of all of this financial mess with a new ad campaign. The ads are on message with the music and the voiceover but the images actually detract from the experience. I don’t need to see the Pittsburgh Steeler’s QB in an ad about reinvention of a car company. Trouble is the campaign comes across as a “Meet the new boss, it’s the same as the old boss” (tip of the hat to The Who for that one).

My wife, who is not a Fortune 500 marketer asked regarding the GM push, “Wouldn’t it be more effective to have commercials that focus on the people whose jobs depend on turning the company around? Wouldn’t it be more impactful to hear about an assembly line worker who is working their tail off to make a better product, so people will buy the product and thus preserve their job?” I agree with her. Not because she’s wife but because that makes sense. Personally, I would pay attention to that message. This GM campaign is just more company speak and less personal speak. To me, they still don’t get it.

So back to the point of people being a brand. There are companies that are embracing this concept successfully. Comcast’s Frank Eliason and his team get a lot of attention for their work on behalf of their brand. QuickenLoans is doing it as well.

Rubel pointed to Eliason and others as the beginning of this trend. Another is “Kelly” @Quickenloans. Rubel noted an exchange between Kelly and a realtor called Jody Zink that started on May 22, with a tweet by Zink saying, “Just say no to Quicken Loans. There’s nothing QUICK about it” and ended with her tweeting “Thanks for your help, Kelly. We are closed!” on May 28.

“This isn’t customer service,” said Rubel. “This is branding.”

While there there is significant benefit from the customer service and customer retention side of the coin Rubel makes an interesting point

“All of this is seen by the gods of Google,” said Rubel. He noted that Comcast’s Eliason now ranks higher in Google search than a famous video titled A Comcast Technician Sleeping on my Couch that had over 1.3 million views at press time.

So what do companies do? Rubel’s final points for companies to be considering as social media morphs into the branding space

  1. Find your social media all-stars
  2. Connect your customers to the all-stars
  3. Give their all-stars independence
  4. Give them the equipment and support they need in order to do active listening on social media.

Lots to think about over the weekend, huh?

  • http://www.media-proinc.com John Ribbler

    Big agencies, like Edelman, and their gurus must attempt to establish broad rules on what works now and why (and dress it up it gobbledygook) , because their business models rely on selling formulaic solutions. If the clients buy the theories, they can also accept the legions of junior level staffers who are unable (and often unmotivated) to understand each company’s specific need and engineer creative campaigns, using whatever old or new media tool is appropriate for the circumstance.

  • http://www.JoeMescher.com Joe Mescher

    “Empower Me”

    That’s the message I see missing in large advertising pushes today, most notably in the GM Reinvention TV spots.

    Frank, your wife hit the nail on the head.

    Why doesn’t GM reach out to their supporters…like Chris Brogan…who can show them how to start genuine conversations instead of pumping feel good images into our television sets?

    If Fritz Henderson and Mark LaNeve hosted a LIVE meeting with 5 assembly line employees and 5 ‘Small Town USA’ folks with reservations about their products, then distilled it into a 60 second ad, I’d sure pay attention.

    I was born in Detroit and hope GM makes the right moves going forward. Being real and starting conversations would be a terrific first step…

    Joe Mescher’s last blog post..Bankrupt Brands: Who’s Minding the Store?

  • http://dallasmarketingservices.com Kim Hull

    So true and so relevant. I’m just finishing reading the Whuffie Factor, which follows the same logical method of thinking about social media that most all businesses are missing. Real people involved in genuine conversations after listening. It’s almost funny that it is so rare.

    Kim Hull’s last blog post..Twitter Goes Gray – Oldies But Goodies on Twitter

  • http://sayreonline.com Brennan

    Couldn’t agree more that the people are now the brand and not the company name/logo. I think branding of the name and logo is still needed but I don’t think it is effective as it once was. The downturn in the economy coupled with all of the fraud that has gone on around it has really made TRUST one of the largest issues with companies. When I see someone such as Kelly from Quicken taking her company’s customers seriously I know that they are probably taking their product and service seriously. Like I said right now trust is probably one of the largest factors with companies especially since there are so many right now that are outsourcing every single part of their customer service which in my opinion is a big mistake.

  • http://www.media-proinc.com/ribblog John Ribbler

    Coca Cola? Gatorade? Lipton Tea? Nike? Chevron? BP? Cole Hahn? Tommy Hilfiger?

    How are people the brand?

    John Ribbler’s last blog post..Advice to big companies: Pick the low hanging fruit before you rot

  • http://twitter.com/buzzprofile Barry Hurd

    I have to agree with John Ribbler above, the numbers created by most of these whitepaper scenarios are wonderful diagnosis… but rarely predictive. Edelman tried to the same thing with an Obama Social Media and Politics whitepaper, throwing out some interesting statistics and then saying at the end “because Obama did it and we can write about numbers, Edelman can help you launch your own political campaign….”

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Steve is an amazingly bright guy. I think he should have left the fluff off the entire pitch and just left it with the four closing points (which are very on-target.)

    FYI: I am a big proponent in personal and company brand, having spent the last few months working on some back-end items for my own personal brand service.

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  • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

    @John – When a brand lets you down and you have a customer service need what do you want more …. an automated phone tree from the company / brand or a live voice who can at least have a chance at understanding your issue? Most brands get bad raps for shoddy customer service. Speaking only for myself, how i determine a brand’s value relies heavily on the human interaction I have with the orgization. All the rest – packaging, marketing, advertising, PR etc is produced by the brand ‘machine’ so it’s sterile and has to be looked at with some level of caution.

    Maybe what is really at issue here is whether a brand needs a high level of customer service (does Chevron, BP really require that?). If the brand is a service provider or there needs to be customer service support, then the people are the brand. People solve problems and build trust. Brands produce image.

    just my 2 cents.. thanks for stopping by and keeping things lively!

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Internet Marketing and Merilee Elliott – A Match Made in Dallas

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  • http://www.pokethebeehive.com Dan Hutson

    Interesting post. I think it’s less “people are the new brand” and more “individual performance helps shape the brand.” This is particularly true in services and retail–Nordstrom people were absolutely essential to development of the Nordstrom brand. But maybe it’s less so with consumer products–how do I experience the Coca Cola brand through its people?

    Where I think the people=new brand issue is most relevant is at the small business level. Small business owners and their employees frequently ARE the brand for their customers. it’s a reminder that much of what is “new” in social media is merely technology enabling a more effective and cost-efficient return to the basic business principles that existed before the domination of huge corporate entities.

    Business relationships centered around trust, authority and service … if that’s “people are the new brand,” then bring it on.

    Dan Hutson’s last blog post..In Search of Quality, Not Quantity on Twitter

  • http://www.focusid.com Greg Bowen

    This is great.

    I have not heard this put so well – yes it is all about people. Look at the success of YouTube memes and the success of crowdsourcing, it is all about individuals. It is more personal, people will always respond to this.

    My question is where the rubber meets the road. If someone wants to connect customers to their social media all stars, how is this done? They send them to an employees facebook page? Blogs, I understand, but how many employees keep relevant blogs maintained?

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  • http://www.ukifp.org mark harrison

    People will probably not agree but I think social media or rather the ‘selling’ of social media concepts has plateud. We keep hearing about brand but I’m not sure how people can become more effective than the brand itself? Time to think again…

    mark harrison’s last blog post..Write off debts? Hmm?

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  • http://globalblognetwork.blogspot.com/ JP

    Great piece. thank you. You’re right on the mark from my perspective.

    I thought that this piece that I read recently is a perfect complement to yours.

    http://globalbestpractice.blogspot.com/2009/05/12-rules-for-bringing-to-your-business.html

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  • http://www.3q.co.za/get-3quotes-on/business-cards Jacques Snyman | Business Cards

    Targeting social media effectively is definitely key to any serious future web marketing afforts, especially with more and more people scrabbling for a smaller slice of the pie. This is a non-negotiable, and the sooner you get on with it, the better!