Brands Are Not Inherently Social, And It Shows In Their Conversational Marketing

The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth recently conducted a new study on the usage of social media in fast-growing corporations.

Fifty percent of the 2010 Inc. 500 had a corporate blog, up from 45% in 2009 and 39% in 2008. In this new 2011 study, the use of blogging dropped to 37%.

Companies in the Advertising/Marketing industry are most likely to blog while companies in Government Services and Construction make very little use of this tool. This decline mirrors a trend in other sectors as this mature tool evolves into other forms or is replaced by communication through Facebook or Twitter.

One might deduce that blogging is simply too hard to do consistently well. Particularly when compared to the fast moving slap and paste action available on Twitter and Facebook. To provide real value on a company blog, someone in marketing or at the agency, has to lay out an editorial direction for the site, and have the ability and/or resources to execute that plan. On the other hand, to be active on Facebook and Twitter doesn’t require that kind of expertise.

Yet, it should be noted that just 1% of fans of the biggest brands on Facebook are actually engaging with the brands, according to Ad Age.

Bottom line, a brand can serve their audience well in social and editorial channels, or the brand can fumble time and again. Short form or long, text or video, there has to be a compelling “reason why” for people to engage. A contest or giveaway is one way to move the engagement needle, but it’s harder to do with straight up content. Content in a marketing context is typically there to build the brand (via increased sharing and trust), and brand-building takes patience and commitment.

A successful content marketing effort also means letting off the gas a bit. As Gary Vaynerchuk has noted, everyone’s in a hurry to close. Everyone’s also mono-focused on the task at hand, to prove social media’s worth to the CMO or department head. But when you refuse to veer off topic, you deprive your readers the humanity behind the brand. And you risk boring people and driving them away, even though they’re your best prospects and customers. For example, a stream that is one instructional piece of advice followed by the next, makes perfect sense on paper (in the strategy document), but not in practice.

In short, the web can be a place where we laugh and smile together, while we learn.



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.