With great power comes great responsibility. So wrote Stan Lee for his creation, Spider-Man - a line to be considered carefully by PROs aiming to use social media to elevate their brand to an iconic status, 'liked' or 'followed' on networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
The internet has tremendous ability to influence through peer-to-peer recommendation. Brands that can provide a platform for conversation in the social space can therefore create a distinct advantage over competitors. However, responsibility lies in ensuring their message is clear and transparent, as today's marketing-savvy consumers will be quick to share their opinions online if they think otherwise.
That said, asking for organisations to be transparent and then comparing them to superheroes is a bit contradictory. For example, take the Superman monologue that Bill delivers to the Bride in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol.2: 'Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is there's the superhero and there's the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he's Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman did not become Superman.
Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red "S", that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears - the glasses, the business suit - that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us.'
Bill's point about superheroes wearing a mask to hide their true identity is something a brand simply cannot do in terms of online marketing, as it would probably fall into the area of 'astroturfing' - where organisations pretend the planned and often paid-for online buzz of a campaign is spontaneously generated by the public.
So how can brands change the way they look to make people view them in a better light without hiding who they are? One example is the campaign Sound Creative, a division of markettiers4dc, ran for Prudential. This broke the mould of regional 'pensions seminars' by targeting customers approaching retirement using video in the form of a live and interactive webTV show.
By replacing the normal hotel road show, Prudential tried something new, offering a more engaging, plain- speaking way to talk to their clients over the web instead. Viewers sent in questions before and during the live broadcast, which was streamed on Prudential's website and featured consumer finance personality Alvin Hall.
It also worked its database to drive questions, create an appointment to view and remind customers the show was available on demand. It has since been viewed 30,000 times.
There is even more to be achieved now with interactive video that you can stream through Facebook, which is what we did for whisky maker Laphroaig, broadcasting a whisky-tasting event, live via satellite from Jerez in Spain to its Facebook fan page. This enabled viewers to share the link to the broadcast in their newsfeeds so that friends could join in the experience, while following tweets about the show from all over the world.
These are just two examples where brands have used video in an innovative and engaging way to elevate their status to customers. And by adapting a quote from another Stan Lee creation, The Hulk, I'd recommend embracing your customers in the social media space: 'Don't make them angry, you might not like them when they're angry.'
Views in brief
What's the best brand PR campaign you've seen on Facebook?
I've yet to see a brand use Facebook as well as Compare the Market with the page it has set up for Aleksandr Orlov - facebook.com/Comparethemeerkat.
At the time of writing, this has 764,174 people who like it. There is continual dialogue between Aleksandr and his fans, keeping followers engaged on a daily basis with exclusive news, competitions and information on where to buy related products, like the fantastic PR stunt of his own autobiography A Simples Life. Within two hours of posting a link to his promotional interview on Daybreak, there had been 458 'likes' and 96 comments.