A Better Brand Playbook for Social Media

3-D Pénte Model social mediaA Better Brand Playbook for Social Media

On the average a consumer spends 5,840 hours per year using a mobile phone while time spent watching television is only 1,865 hours per year. With people engrossed in this miniature small screen world, it’s surprising so little attention is paid to the human meanings of the tech devices themselves and the profound meanings of their daily use. Constant flows of information automate and streamline lives via our mobile universe.

Chief anthropologist and partner at Lucule, Tom Maschio, provides extraordinary insights into the meanings people attribute to the technologies they use. As Tom sees it, “Texting, photo sharing, streaming video and other content are leading to new ways of being in the world, new ways of finding meaning, value and pleasure in life.” When people use mobile devices, they draw upon what anthropologists call cultural scripts, or frames. The scripts most often used are those for toys and play. The use of a mobile device is characterized by the sense that one is playing with a toy because the small size image invites passage to the imaginative realm of play.

Like “toys”, mobile objects lend themselves to fantasy and play; yet at the same time they are powerful tools for adults. We ascribe certain aspects of ourselves – desires and personality – on to the inner space of the phone, and build a metaphor of self, a sense of the self as accumulating or building over time. For example, a social network becomes meaningful when an Instagram picture of a special moment is sent to the family’s digital network. The members of that network comment on and feel the emotion of the scene. People are creating and outlining social boundaries and social communities of taste and shared interests as they incorporate their own lives into the digital space of the smartphone.

Brands must learn how to occupy this space in digital culture if they wish to have influence in the mobile world. Just as people increasingly define themselves in relationship to others so too must a company. You need to encourage consumers to become a creative part of your brand; to help “create” around your brand because “creation” is the modern take on self-invention in social and digital culture, which we all participate in to one extent or another. We are all influencing and drawing influence from others in social media spaces.

To communicate in this new environment, marketers need to stop wasting social media dollars on smartphone ads, online magazines and social networks that use the same approach as a 30-second TV spot. When brands first immersed themselves in the search for influential people in social networks they found that the process was much like looking for a needle in a haystack. Even if they found someone who might be considered an influencer, they still didn’t know if that person was able to effect behavioral change or how many people might be influenced.

The old model of influence itself is no longer useful when it comes to social media. The old model looks at most people as passive recipients of information – but this is not what is happening in the culture of social media. We are learning that people today are agents themselves who take information, rework it, rebroadcast it, and change it. This means even the traditional top-down model of celebrity influence is changing.

We are all influencing and drawing influence from others in the social media space. Everyone can be an influencer and can potentially broadcast a brand message if that message is couched in the right idiom. So it isn’t about a high Klout score any more; it’s about how to best create this connectedness – that people create places. The places represent connection to people, to events, to memories.

Five Factors Shape Brand Influence

Lucule, an innovation consultancy in which I am a partner, has developed a proprietary social media-planning framework called Pénte. Pénte identifies five factors that shape audience receptivity to marketing communications and can therefore impact the desired behavioral response to these activities.

Depending on the specific cultural context of the marketing objectives, these factors play shifting roles in driving the desired response: message type, form of message, device, time, and level of audience engagement. Not surprisingly, people respond to messages on their mobile phones differently than they do to those received in other ways.

Mobile devices open people up to the unexpected, felicitous event or experience at any moment in time. That is the message essentially of social media and why the old, standard top-down models of influence are outdated. It is crucial to understand this distinction if marketing is ever to get ahead of the curve.

DEBRA KAYE is a frequent commentator on American Public Radio’s “Marketplace” and contributor to Fast Company. She is partner at innovation consultancy Lucule (www.luculeconsulting.com). Her book, Red Thread Thinking: Weaving Together Connections for Brilliant Ideas and Profitable Innovation is just published by McGraw Hill. This post was co-authored with Jure Klepic, partner at Lucule.

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