Digital influence: 2011 as a full step towards Brand Storytelling

by Laurent François

Ages ago (5 years!) we suddenly discovered that online conversations were absolutely changing the influential deal: anyone in the street could potentially threaten a brand, some people might organize themselves to accuse, attack another group. Times said that “You” were the person of the year in 2006.

Some months later: viral campaigns, influential projects. The financial & economic downturn and the rise of online strong communities: BlogHer, the Ford come-back led by John Bell and his team. A whole creativity boom and the hope that thanks to Social Media, a new era for citizenship could happen. Also because of the amazing Barack Obama campaign in the US: we’ve also hoped in Europe that such a movement could rise.

2010: a kind of strange climate for Social Media observers; the feeling that many things have been done and that Social Media can be disappointing. Look at the Wikileaks affair: does it really change the deal, at the end for the final citizen? Diplomacy will be more & more secret. So as rare information will be always more walled.

My point is that Social Media is not disappointing at all: it’s the story you tell which can be.

And that’s the good news: we’ve probably been a bit lazy these years, as marketers, focusing on leverages instead of what a brand has to say or cannot say. Before using the “social pace” in which we as citizen-consumers live, we need to work again on the story we want to affirm. And a story means 3 or 4 stakeholders or means:

  1. a pitch: all the brands cannot sell “happiness” and I think that it’s a bit over-rated to think that a brand can sell the absolute love among people. Brands can therefore sell realitic ideas or projects, simplicity could be better than non-pragmatic concepts (think about the 1960s ads which were full of pragmatism and entertainment)
  2. Actors: and here comes your organisation: you need to make people endorse a kind of “deep acting”. Read on this perticular point this study on “surface acting and deep acting as determinants of emotional exhaustion & peer-rated service delivery” and this article in French. Your story starts with your people: social media can be a useful tool to create hubs & bridges around a core set of values that your people vote or help
  3. Audiences & / or publics: you share your reputation and the good news is that your story can fit with very diverse groups of people with diverse objectives. Big brands haven’t really imagined enough manners to make these people contribute: it’s not about a blog, about a social network, about a campaign. It’s about how your brand as a process could talk, grow, at different stages, with these groups of people. Think R&D: couldn’t you make more people enter your labs? Think about CSR: don’t you think that your consumers could enter the definition of your mission earlier, instead of just being exposed to your messages? Think about “backstage”: how many times did you invite some students in your office?

In this big story-manufactury, digital influence can rapidly become a kind of big GPS for your organization; because it’s transmedia, because it’s about the internet which is the global communication platform; because with digital influence, you don’t have the right to be blind because “it’s not your job”. People with hands on your brand. People with brands on your story. People with digital real needs on the services you deliver.

What a challenge.

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