Brands must be community celebrants, not celebrities

Photo: Luke Stettner

With the never-ending stream of new social technologies, apps and platforms rolling out every day, its easy to get lost in the minutiae of social media. Yet for there to be effective change, especially within large, top-down, hierarchical institutions, a company must have an over-arching understanding of the new role it has to play.

If a brand wants to build social communities, capital and influence, it must become the chief celebrant of its community, not its celebrity. This simple shift in approach unlocks enormous transformative potential for brands. Here’s why:

1. They spend less time talking and more time listening.

2. They start treating customers as living, breathing people.

3. They invest time and energy in relationships as well as profits.

4. They expand from a sales into a service mentality.

5. Their community can work for them and buy from them.

6. Their story becomes their community’s story.

7. Customers become emotionally invested in the company’s success.

8. Relationships start being built around shared values, as well as dollars value.

9. They automatically shift from a push/broadcast to a pull/social strategy.

10. Emotional connections with customers becomes natural rather than forced.

To achieve this a brand must undergo a re-visioning process ideally led by management. In doing so, they must re-frame how their products and services can be positioned to enable and celebrate the success of their customers and community rather than solely seeking profit or to indulge the vanity of their brand personality. If this sounds like broad strokes, they are. Such simple, broad intentions are the filters that will inform the details of social engagement, especially for large organizations.

Brands stand to benefit from such a shift in several ways, the most important of which is the customer goodwill, loyalty and, ultimately, the profits they will earn.

Leading brands already embracing this new dynamic. Nike with its open source Environmental Design Tool that benefits the entire sports apparel industry; P&G’s ‘Click for Water’ Blogivation campaign that empowers bloggers to help those desperately in need of clean water; Walmart’s Sustainability Index that has the potential to positively transform entire industries and supply chains; and Pepsi’s Refresh Project that helps regular people realize the ways they hope to improve the world.

Obviously such a reframing of thinking is difficult to adopt in the boardroom and even more difficult to execute company-wide. But as social media, technologies and business continue to change commerce, there will be those companies that leverage it to their advantage and those that it will destroy. For proof, CEO’s and shareholders need only look to the changes in the music, entertainment, publishing and, most recently, marketing industries. The time for brands to shift their thinking is now. The market has already changed.

Do you think a sufficient number of brands have integrated the implications of social business for their business models? Or do you think social business will peak and fade away?