Innovation is the bulwark of growth. It increases the standard of living for all concerned. However initially when presented with a new technology, people tend to use that innovation to do existing jobs more effectively. Brand building is no different. As social media gains momentum, brand communicators are experimenting carte blanche with these new technologies and connections to get their jobs done, typically coming at it from an advertising, interactive or PR perspective.
If social media and its inherent benefits are indeed so revolutionary, so potentially game-changing why is it that it is taking time for people to figure out how to best use them? More fundamentally, organizational silos and constraints limit its potential to brand-building exercises.
A historical analogy brings this issue to life. When airplanes began flying 100 years ago, they came under the purview of the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps. As guns and artillery went airborne in World War I, the Army controlled the aircraft. The military brass saw this innovation as means to help move soldiers forward by attacking enemy lines. Thus, aircraft grew in stature as a tactical tool for Army purposes.
This is a perfect metaphor for the current state of innovation with marketing and PR team thinking. The pace of functional change isn’t keeping pace with the unprecedented social shifts disrupting media and consumer behaviors and the possibilities that come with it.
We regularly see brand teams struggling to incorporate social strategies into their specific function and worldview. They’re confused over whom to turn to for help with a glut of new-media experts, or how to value the merits of ideas. They aren’t necessarily structured to take advantage of programs in play and can’t, for example, route customer comments through social sites to customer service or R&D. And they’re struggling with how to design and execute campaigns inline with the media habits and behaviors of people they’re trying to reach.
The value of social-media acumen and inline thinking will skyrocket in stature as rapidly developing capabilities grow. But to realize the value, new practices shouldn’t necessarily follow the exclusive lead of advertising, interactive or PR in its mission. Teams should be organized to exploit possibilities for making new contributions in a way that lets people in and where possible, lets people do the marketing for them. This goes beyond one-off UGC campaigns and Twitter accounts. It’s about committing to a new design for social business and communications.