Social Can't Succeed Without Experiential

Social marketers need to be event marketers. As a social media professional, if you don't have plans for event marketing in your 2013 budget, you’d better lower your projected metrics for the year.

While we all know it's much harder to maintain business-to-consumer relationships on social media , as compared to our personal consumer-to-consumer relationships, most consumers don't know that. Most consumers see social as something easy that simply requires some posts here, some photos there, and a video share every so often.

Without your creating "real," non-digital engagement, consumers will start to consider your digital engagements as fake and overly self-serving. A handshake still means something -- that's why travel on Southwest continues to increase, that's why trade shows haven't gone completely virtual, and that's why Mediapost has conferences like (prepare for shameless plug) the upcoming Social Data Conference next month.

You know this from personal experience.

You probably have a friend, let's call her Sarah. You see Sarah's tweets of meals she's eaten, her shares of photos of her kids and the occasional video from her iPhone. You know more about Sarah than about your sister, whom you see a couple times a month.

But, you don't feel connected.

Not until you have lunch. While having lunch, you get to experience your friend as she truly is. Unfiltered. She becomes real again. Not just a manufactured reality.

The point here is not just the face-to-face interaction. It’s the element of unfiltered realness. Every company (and every person, even) seems to be maintaining a “brand” nowadays. It’s harder and harder to ascertain what is real and what is manufactured.

So, when brands take the opportunity to put themselves out into the real world, in situations where they can’t control everything and have to respond honestly -- those are the moments when consumers uncontrollably embrace the brands and rejoice in the reality of the moment.

Putting a brand into a real-life scenario might be scary, but it pays off in spades. Just look at the recent Felix Baumgartner jump from space, quite effective marketing  by Red Bull.  Sure, the jump from space was what made the 8 million people watch live on YouTube. Seeing him drop off the skateboard-sized platform momentarily caused the world’s oxygen supply to increase as those 8 million people collectively held their breath

But I posit that it was the unfiltered interaction between Baumgartner and ground control that made the whole event “real.” We all saw the small communication errors, we saw the in-the-moment human interaction, and we knew that these were real people believing in what they were doing.

This element of “real” makes the entire marketing endeavor exponentially more effective than if Red Bull had filmed the whole event, edited it and posted it somewhere for the world to see. Red Bull changed from a brand into a company with real, passionate people.

It’s key to remember that “live” and “real” are not mutually exchangeable. The town hall presidential debate last night was live, but most people consider it to be highly manufactured and not “real.”

So often we focus on the “media” aspect of “social media.” We sacrifice analyzing what makes things truly “social.” Just as in our personal lives, socializing happens when we put ourselves out in slightly uncontrollable situations to let people see how we react based on our core personality.

Make sure your 2013 budgeting provides your brand the opportunity to showcase its core personality. Let’s keep it real, people.

Tags: social media
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1 comment about "Social Can't Succeed Without Experiential".
  1. Don Roy from Middle Tennessee State University , October 18, 2012 at 9:43 a.m.
    Excellent article, Bryan! Social media is not a substitute for creating authentic customer experiences. Rather, it is a platform that can enhance interactions that occur in the offline realm. Take Starbucks, for instance. Its ability to engage people via social media is strengthened by the credibility and trust of the brand built through our experiences in-store.