I posted a while back on the important distinctions among Monitoring, Participation, and Activation. Short version: Monitoring social networks is where most brands start. Most will eventually move to Participate – to actually engage in the conversation – through some combination of consolidation under a “Community Manager” type, and coordination of the distributed activity among it’s employees (more on those here).
While this kind of engagement itself adds some value, commercial entities eventually need to convert some of that goodwill into things they can measure; like sales, customer satisfaction, product feedback, whatever.
In the event sponsorship businesses they call this “Activation,” referring to the additional, on-site efforts specifically intended to leverage the platform created by an event to deliver a more interactive, intimate, and in the end impactful experience to individual consumers. If you’ve ever seen Coor’s bikini-clad nubiles prance across a car show floor, you get the idea.
OK, come back now.
Conventional wisdom is that sponsors who participate in events but don’t double down on an investment to activate attendees in some way aren’t getting the most out of the money they put on the table in the first place.
Social Media Activation
So it is with social media. There was a good discussion that spilled over into Twitter yesterday about whether the good (i.e. discounts and couponing) was the enemy of the great (i.e. preferential access or exclusive products for loyal fans) when it comes to activating social media.
I don’t think it is, but the larger point here is that for social media to create business value, brands need to find clever ways to reconcile the need to build relationships with the need to harvest them in some way. I don’t think these are intrinsically at odds, though they are quite different.
It can seem that way, though, since building relationships is typically a process, and harvesting them is typically an event. For each social media interaction, then, it’s important to understand:
- Which is it? Is this rapport communication, investing in the relationship asset, or an attempt to activate the equity you’ve already built?
- What’s the optimal ratio of these activity types over time? Too much of the former and you’re leaving money on the table. Too much of the latter and you’ll poison the well.
- How can I perform each in ways that support rather than detract from the other? There’s no substitute for creativity here, and the best service providers will excel at it.
What do you think? Do you buy the distinction? And if so, how much overlap is optimal in the Venn diagram?
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