MAYBE - DAN COBLEY, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING, GOOGLE UK
There are no firm rules for brands using social media - which is often the attraction. There are many examples of traditional businesses taking risks to converse with consumers on their own terms. Vauxhall built a YouTube channel to promote its Corsa model, featuring videos that were more risque than TV ads could have been and building the brand's link to irreverent fun. Likewise, Pot Noodle's channel encourages users to upload spoof videos of their favourite film clips, benefiting from the association.
What brands should not do is take a broad-brush approach to all social networks. Consumers use them in a certain mind frame and with a particular objective. A YouTube user may be there to be entertained by video; a MySpace user might be there to discover bands or discuss fashion; Bebo users could be seeking online drama.
By matching the branded offering to the nuances of the networks and their users, brands are more likely to find their presence is embraced.
YES - NICK BLUNDEN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, PROFERO
Yes, but they must be prepared for frank criticism. Social networks are, in part, built around openness and trust, and brands unwilling to accept un-moderated honesty should think twice before employing such a strategy.
No brand is universally popular, and beyond the digital space it can be easy to ignore detractors. Engaging these notoriously territorial consumers in their own space makes the risk of disapproval greater, but the rewards are proportionally far higher.
The opportunity to create genuine, lasting dialogue is priceless, and brands can gain more valuable opinion and information on a social network than from any focus group or questionnaire.
The key to success is open-mindedness, a willingness to engage in debate, and the persistence to maintain conversation with users for as long as they feel it is necessary. People will embrace brands if they take the time to interact, and placing such an emphasis on consumer respect will be rewarded with invaluable levels of loyalty and trust.
YES - ALEX MARKS, HEAD OF UK MARKETING, MICROSOFT ADVERTISING
Digital media has progressed along similar lines to human civilisation. Social networks satisfy basic human needs; exchanging ideas, finding partners, and so on. The web just helps us to do these things more quickly.
In countries with 100% penetration, internet behaviour is more community-based, and it is vital for established brands to be aware of the changing relationships with, and between, consumers, as both technology and lifestyles evolve.
Social networks offer brands unique opportunities to engage with their audiences in a more individualised, interactive way. A recent global survey from Synovate, in conjunction with Microsoft, highlights that young adults are especially keen to engage with brands online.
However, social networks are like established clubs, with their own rules and etiquette. You can't put brands on them and just expect results - the message needs to be relevant and intelligent. As ever, it's about placing the right message in front of the right audience in the right place at the right time.
YES - DAVID PATTISON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, I-LEVEL GROUP
What makes a brand? It's partly a question of product delivery and partly to do with brand values.
As I see it, no single marketing channel could claim to have built a brand in isolation, even if the only other channel was by word of mouth.
What social networks do is offer marketers a place to listen to views on their and rival brands and get the opportunity to respond. The tone and action of that response will say a lot about a brand and its values to this audience. This audience is very vocal, understands marketing and is happy to interact with brands - providing you are useful or entertaining, of course.
However, if you don't respond, or get it wrong, it will certainly be a brand demolisher. Any marketer who cannot see that social networking is a significant part of branding should probably become an accountant.
For more discussion, visit marketingmagazine.co.uk
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This article was first published on Marketing