Skittles made a daring move a couple weeks back and illustrated beautifully why, despite a strong willingness, brands can’t open themselves up from a social web standpoint. Brands are built on trust, and consumers and fans have an expectation of how that brand will treat them. It’s no different than personal relationships.
The web is an accelerator of information, sharing, connecting and lends itself to relationship building. With the rise of social media, why can’t brands insert themselves or leverage the discussions that are occurring? They can, but it has to be restrained because there’s a fundamental piece that remains unsolved about how communication occurs on the web – and communication is key to relationship building.
The anonymity and the lack of physical queues on the web create a significant break in the norms of communication. You don’t see someone’s feelings getting hurt if you write a flaming comment. You don’t have to take personal responsibility because no one knows it’s you (in many cases). This makes it too easy for communication to deteriorate. You’re no longer in a place of trust but somewhere that feels unsafe – a breach of trust.
There are ways to minimize this risk, and that’s why you see moderated discussions, the ability to report “inappropriate” behavior and so on. Some level of oversight can help guide community behavior, but usually aren’t real time so you’ll see inappropriate comments or events surface. That’s why it’s not a good idea to put an open, unmoderated discussion on your homepage if you’re a family friendly brand.
As a result, brands need to manage when and where dialogue occurs. And that’s why we tout we’re the “official” Boom (branded browser). The look, the tone, the message is all sanctioned and controlled by the brand. This doesn’t mean it’s a mechanism to talk “at” the consumer. It’s just a more controlled environment.
Controlled can also be very valuable. The real-time, communication news and content integrated into the browser is a powerful tool. There’s an honor to be on the “first-to-know” list, and brands that make an effort to get the latest news (emphasis intended) to their audience can create a stronger bond and a more engaged fan.
There’s never a single solution that’s right for everyone. The trust/relationship structure will change with brand and audience. But, there’s usually a sweet spot where the odds are in your favor. And when it comes to finding an engaging means to communicate with your consumer, we can deliver a very sweet Boom.