When I was in brand management, social media did not exist. But I can tell you this: I would have had a field day with this exciting medium because I valued the power of ‘big ideas’ to infuse growth into the brands under my wing. Frankly, I had no choice, because I’d worked for small to medium-sized companies competing against giants the likes of Nestle, Kraft, and Procter & Gamble. By any comparison, my brands were underfinanced. But, they sure as hell weren’t neglected.

Let me explain – any marketer can play the social media game and do it well with a concept that resonates. You don’t need deep pockets. You need deep ideas. Not so fast! Deep ideas saying what? Herein lies the myth of social media marketing. It’s not hard to come up with cute or funny stories that entertains or engages a customer or potential customer. Some people think that’s enough to build brand franchises. It isn’t. Ideas without strategic brand intent are superfluous.

Undervalued Factor No. 1: Clear Brand Positioning

Social media, just like traditional media, isn’t the message. Yes, I said message. I know that infers “one way” or “push” communication in today’s digital world. A message from a marketer doesn’t have to mean that at all. But, in their haste to post and build followers, marketers overlook the importance of brand positioning. Brand positioning, to be effective, must be focused, differentiated, and single-minded. Today’s social media marketers find that overly confining when it comes to content. Of course it’s confining – so much so that the best strategies also tell you what not to do, inherently limiting the playing field.

This explains why so many marketers are doing away with clear brand messaging and positioning altogether. Some say it can’t be controlled anyway, so who cares? Disciples of brand positioning care. They stick to a very basic branding principle; people need to know what a brand stands for within a competitive set of brand options. If customers can’t do that, they can’t assign value to your product or service.

Undervalued Factor No. 2: Strategic Driven Content

Ignoring brand positioning in social media is not only misguided, it is laziness disguised by the myth that single-mindedness stifles social media opportunity. Stick to your brand positioning but search for various interesting touch points to support and further entrench that positioning with your customers. As an example, a coffee brand with a ‘best beans’ positioning could be guided along an assortment of avenues in the hyper-social world. The social marketer could pursue the demanding personality of the brand to search out and secure superior coffee beans, travelogues of coffee-producing countries, idiosyncrasies of the tasters/blenders/customers, tidbits on varietals, analogies to wines, roasting, grinding, recipes, even the types of people who buy the brand.

When marketers reinstate these undervalued strategic factors into their social media journey, they can focus on the executional values that bring a brand to life in the medium. There are many ways to do this. I like the idea of telling a newsworthy story about the brand and posting consistent and continuous narratives that never stop telling that story.

About John R. Bell

John R. Bell is a retired consumer packaged goods CEO, a former global strategy consultant, and the author of Do Less Better. The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World. A prolific blogger, John’s musings on strategy, leadership, and branding appear in several online journals including Fortune and Forbes.

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