5 Different Ways to Approach Social Media Branding

Columbia University’s chief digital officer Sree Sreenivasan advocates the “ABC approach”: “Always be collecting”. He didn’t mean artwork or other nicknacks–he was referring to a collection of digital tools and content. Here’s an example: Speaking at the Brite ‘13 conference hosted by Columbia Business School’s Center for Global Brand Leadership in New York on Monday, he recalled that at last year’s event he highlighted Tout, a video tool that streams fifteen second videos. The recent buzz is about Vine, which streams six second videos. And so it goes.

Social media’s array of shiny objects may ebb and flow, but as a category it’s gained so much traction that more companies now actively monitor platforms’ metrics–and consultants have developed social media models. Speaker Ric Dragon, CEO of Dragon Search and author of Social Marketology, presented an interesting framework outlining five different social media strategies companies may use.

Dragon’s “big five” approaches represent a way for brands to think about their social media goals, and they’re not mutually exclusive. Below are his five options, along with selected brand examples.

1.Brand Maintenance: With this reactive approach, brands play a limited role in social media just for the sake of having a presence. They monitor the social space and reply to those who mention them. This passive method is more the domain of brands late to adopt social media, as well as companies in highly regulated industries like healthcare and financial services.

2.Community Building: In this case the brand is involved in creating communities of like-minded customers or groups who share a passion for the category. The forums foster interaction between these brand ambassadors. Harley Davidson exemplifies this activity, as it mobilizes its hardcore motorcycle enthusiast fanbase. Tribeca Film Festival is another brand that keeps film buffs informed all year long.

3.Influencer Marketing: With this option, which Dragon jokingly nicknamed “professional stalking”, companies identify key influencers that impact their category or brand, then monitor and follow their social media activities and engage with them. It’s actually more flattering than the stalking term suggests. In fact, it is the M.O. of key social media platforms, namely LinkedIn and Twitter.

4.Thought Leadership: Here brands proactively create and share content to reinforce their reputations and minimize the impact of crises if they occur. This approach places companies in a favorable light by enhancing their credibility and expertise. Tech companies IBM and SAP have effectively employed this strategy by having a voice in pressing technology issues.

5.Big Splash: With this method, companies create programs designed to garner widespread attention and a spike in social connections. While many brands seek to be viral sensations, it’s far easier said than done. Examples here include companies who have mastered the art of creative social media, such as Virgin Atlantic Airways, as well as Oreo’s popular tweet during the Super Bowl.

So the next time a shiny new social media object appears on the horizon, think about where it fits with your brand’s objectives in the broader social media landscape.