Social This, Social That

Gareth Kay of Modernista! draws the distinction between social media and social brands. I don’t really get the distinction, but I do understand the following passage.

It means building brands that are inherently open, generous and want to include you. It means developing communication that lets you join the dots and complete the story rather than telling you what to do (in the same way at every point of contact). It means thinking about what it is that people like to do and working back from there to figure out what it is we can do as a brand to be useful, helpful or entertaining rather than starting from what we think first. It means listening. It means having many little conversations not one shouting match.

Alan Wolk is also blogging about social media. His take I understand completely.

…as we bring our “dispatches from the frontier” back to the people in “the real world” we need to be able to put everything into perspective. To think about why someone outside our bubble would use these apps or want to see certain content. To realize how provincial and uninformed we sound if we promote things to clients without providing them with a well-formed reason for our recommendations that takes the actual audience into account. Not ourselves and our friends, but the people who’ll actually use them.

I left comments on both of these posts. On Kay’s post I said I’ve yet to encounter a brand manager who is genuinely interested in listening. On Wolk’s, I said I feel myself burning out on all this shiz, day by day. I dropped Facebook recently, but I see no reason to stop there. Social media is ONE TOOL in the tool box. You can’t build a house with just a screwdriver.
How do you feel about it?

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I would agree with you that social media is a single tool. I’m tired of “the big idea” as well. Unfortunately, “the big idea” is only successful if that idea is about the overall marketing strategy. There is not one commercial that has defined a brand, not one banner that has driven yearly sales, not one anything that has done everything for a brand/business/product.
    As advertisers, it is our job to make sure that this is communicated clearly to our clients, and to push back when we get bombarded with questions like “why aren’t we on facebook?” or “I want a viral video!” rather than immediately concepting ideas for the project.
    I love your analogy of “building a house with a screw driver” because that’s exactly what happens when an overall strategy isn’t fleshed out. If you don’t have a blueprint, you end up with a garage, a roof and a couple of walls. Sure, it may stand up in the end, but is it really accomplishing what you need it to?
    By the way, I love this blog and cherish it as one of the best on the web.

  2. Social Media is bigger than a set of tactics. It has fundamentally changed the way in which we think about marketing products and services.
    Social Media is a platform for participation. Terms like “customer in control”, “On-Demand generation”, “Push to Pull” speak to the evolution marketing has undergone. The goals are the same. Acquire, retain, cross-sell, build loyalty. It’s just that Social Media, as a platform not a tactic has fundamentally changed the way in which we are able to do those things. It’s one of the tools that fall out of a sound marketing strategy. Not THE tool.

  3. Thank you both for bringing added value to this post, and thank you Sean for the extra encouragement.

  4. Stu Sutcliffe says:

    Sean’s comment obviates the need to label social media as a tactic, platform or manna from heaven. Strategy and positioning remain paramount. Everything else is simply a delivery system.

  5. I read on another blog (can’t find the link anymore) the example of the Mini Cooper brand which listened to social media to infer what messages they needed to include in their advertising. So in a way, social media is a toolbox that can be leveraged/integrated with other tools (to reuse your analogy of house/tool). I think it also has lots of intrinsic value..Like enabling people (behind a used-to-be faceless brand) to build relationships with their target markets (real people indeed). And with those relationships, you build what we call ‘actionable influence’. How many times have I heard marketers saying “I don’t talk enough to my customers and faster” because before it was difficult to find them, to get in front of them…Now it’s all easier: Find their blogs/social network presence, listen to them, engage, and at the end, if you’ve built trust and found affinities, you may add them as a friend in facebook/linkedin.