Photo by godakshin
People have gathered in public spaces to observe and be observed since the dawn of civilization. What’s more, material objects, ideas and language have always been symbols that reflect self/group identity.
Since social media reflect and amplify the human experience, it’s not surprising to see voyeurism, self expression and self presentation thriving in the digital world.
How do voyeurism and self-presentation affect brand building? Let’s briefly explore through the lens of Facebook.
Facebook offers many apps that help users actively communicate like messages, status posts, photo albums, comments, likes, and games. While these tools are certainly well used, research suggests that passively trolling through our friends’ posts and photos takes up the lion share of time spent.
Case in point, a study by Young in 2011 highlighted the behavior of adding a potential lover/partner to Facebook soon after the first physical interaction with the intent of ‘face-stalking’ him/her for more insight.
Facebook Self-Expression and Self-Presentation
Facebook profiles have become symbolic reflections of our personal identity. The photos we upload, the objects we LIKE, the articles we share, the posts we make and the places we check-in work together to tell a story about who we are (and who we would like to be perceived as).
Through this lens, a user posting a story from the New York Times about the roots of the financial crisis is not just sharing a great piece of journalism with friends; the user is leveraging high brow intellectual content to help construct his/her personal identity as an educated thinker.
Facebook Users and Brand Interaction
When you correct for promotional incentives and customer reviews/inquiries, people tend to interact (like, comment, share) with brands that help them construct their identity and afford them cultural capital.
For example, a twenty something career newbie who considers him/self self socially progressive and hip, might post a picture from a music festival from Coachella, Like Tom’s shoes, check-in to the Chicago airport on a business trip and post an image from a funky restaurant on a Friday night. All of these brand symbols work together to consciously and/or subconsciously send a message to those viewing his/her profile.
The cold hard truth is that many brands are not naturally self expressive and carry little cultural capital with the consumer segments they are trying to build relationships with. What should these brands focus on to generate higher return on brand and bottom line objectives?
Here are five suggestions:
- Allocate research dollars to qualitatively understand consumers’ social media behavior. When you deeply understand social media context, norms, rituals and motivation, you will start to find ways to infuse the brand into a social object that resonates.
- Borrow equity from something that has cultural resonance already. This isn’t a new tactic; it’s something that great brands have been doing above the line for years. Whether it’s using a celebrity spokesperson or a character/narrative from a well known story, there is a window to connect with your consumer via cultural stories that already exist. At Noise, we often look at our client’s portfolio of sponsorships and CSR to find opportunities for strategic consumer engagement.
- Create icons and stories around your brand that resonate with your target audience. Again, this is something great brand marketers have been doing for a long time. Whether it’s clever mascots like Snap, Crackle and Pop or a hilarious campaign around over the top masculine characters like Old Spice; creatively activating your emotional value proposition will give you assets to generate engagement.
- Use promotional incentives that relate to your brand and generate excitement. Watching the pandemonium that erupts when the t-shirt launcher is brought out at the ball-game is proof enough that people like freebies and deals. Offering a carrot will generate earned media from the consumer if the mechanic is constructed in the right way. Be careful to ensure you are not giving away a free lunch to heavy buyers and that the promotion does not harm your brand.
- Ensure your customer/product experience is phenomenal. Until you create that story that resonates, the only social engagement your brand might receive will be directly related to the substantive quality of your product and service. Now more than ever, delivering functional value that creates net promoters is crucial.
Young (2011) Social Ties, Social Networks and the Facebook Experience. International Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society
Mehdizadeh, S. (2010). Self-Presentation 2.0- Narcissism and Self-Esteem on Facebook. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
Chernatony, W. (2012). Facebook ‘friendship’ and brand advocacy. Journal of Brand Management
Social media, social capital, and seniors: The impact of Facebook on bonding and bridging social capital of individuals over 65.” (2011). AMCIS 2011 Proceedings – All
Comscore U.S. Data (May 2011) Share of Time Spent on Facebook.com by Content Section