Research Shows Brands Should Focus On Trust, Conversation

by Jason Falls |

Brand managers and marketers everywhere are trying to get a grasp on social media, social networking and the social revolution. In the survival of the fittest world of advertising, “fit” now means connected, and not as in, “having an online presence,” but as in, “with consumers in their social world on-line and off-.”

But because the social web is so new, very little qualitative and quantitative research exists that give marketers and brand managers the numeric back-up they need to make decisions. Sure, kicks ass, and several other companies do good work with small samples and good publicity, but the simple fact remains that because the landscape is new and changes so rapidly, we haven’t quite solved the puzzle of the social web and what it means, or costs, to be involved here.

Tom Chapman and The Chartered Institute of Marketing in the United Kingdom are doing their part to change that with a new report called, “Social Network Marketing, Engagement Marketing and Brands,” which looks at Facebook and MySpace users and asks the questions brand managers want to know, namely:

  • Have you befriended a brand?
  • How likely are you to promote their content to your other friends?
  • If your friends became friends of brands, would you too?
  • If a brand creates a useful widget/utility, would you share it with your friends?
  • If a brand friend continually sends you advertisements, how would you react?
  • Would you buy something from a brand on MySpace or Facebook?
  • If you did, would you want the service to tell your friends you bought something?
  • Have you ever friended a brand as a direct result of an advertisement on your social network?
  • Are advertisements on your social network profile obtrusive?

And that’s just a sample of what was asked on the quantitative portion of the research.

Overall, I found Chapman’s report very interesting and revealing, even if the sample was small and the respondents were British. The learnings will cross the minimal cultural boundaries between the left and right side of the Atlantic, in my opinion. I mean, can the preference for tea over coffee be THAT big of a deal?

While I will whole-heartedly recommend you read the report yourself (Click here to find out how to get it) the most compelling piece of the work was, of course, the key findings, which I can’t resist the temptation to cite:

Brands and marketers need to:

  1. Look beyond the ‘friend’ and ‘fan’ metric which is a simple numbers game and place more emphasis on the quality of conversations
  2. Plan engagement marketing both pre and post campaign launch and offer value beyond the first transaction – you get out of a relationship what you put in
  3. Build trust first online or offline before requesting users to friend or fan brand and look to integrate all communications
  4. Understand what the brand stands for in a user’s mind by crowd sourcing data to assist with market research
  5. Develop transparent communication as a key between a brand and the user. Users could be regarded as part employees being in control of the brand-not you.
  6. Use the social network conceptual map in planning and managing a social network marketing campaign.

The social network conceptual map refers to the final page of the report which you’ll need to go see for yourself. I’ve printed it out and tacked it to my office wall because it maps a process to successful social networking activity I would consider sound and reliable. While you’ll always want to keep your planning open to other ideas, it’s not a bad reference document to have handy.

The key findings aren’t really surprising. They each resonate with what you’ll hear from the social media echo chamber. The difference is they are tied to quantitative and qualitative evidence while the echo chamber is mostly tied to alleged social media “experts” over-foaming their beer pours all over the web.

I would challenge Chapman and the CIM to expand the sample, reach out to the U.S. market (Okay, I’m America-centric. Sorry.) and continue to push the research to provide marketers and brands with more and better information. But I would challenge each of you to get the report and give them more feedback to improve the metrics.

IMAGE:Social Network Hub” by Mathias Pastwa on Flickr.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).