Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
This quote is even truer today than when it was first written over half a century ago. We are witnessing a revolution that is unparalleled in recent times. Social media and mass collaboration tools allow individuals or small groups the ability to create change in ways that would have been impossible until recently. The accessibility to government, corporations and individuals has never been easier.
There are numerous examples of how social media has helped change the course of business, politics or shine light on a company’s bad behavior. A few noteworthy ones include the recent Faux Shell Gas Website that turned out to be Greenpeace, Bank Transfer Day and most significantly the Arab Spring. The public in general is infatuated by the new-found power that it holds. There will be more and more of this and the affects on all institutions will be profound.
There is another side to this phenomenon that has the potential to change the business landscape with great speed. This comes from a growing minority of companies that are able to leverage social media to disrupting the norms of their industry by shining light on their company’s culture, policies and actions.
It’s common knowledge that a viral video can increase the visibility of your brand and that a small but effective social media team can achieve results that would have cost millions in media spend years ago. What sets these companies apart is their ability to change the topic of conversation. These companies are changing public expectations when it comes to intent, transparency and tone.
Here’s a few that do it well;
- Warby Parker a new entrant in eyewear, exposed overpriced designer glasses, and is frank about the product that they provided. The tone is lighthearted and fun, while their content is as focused on company culture as on their products and service.
- Patagonia is a company that is long known for their quality outdoor products and environmental consciousness. They distanced themselves from the competition in a very brave campaign encouraging consumers to buy less. Wither intended or not, by encouraging the reuse and resale of their product, they not only increased the perceived quality of their product but entered in a unique dialogue for a consumer facing brand. If competing solely on quality and longevity, the ball is definitely in Patagonia’s court.
- Dollar Shave Club is another brand that has effectively used this new-found power to change the discussion in their sector. Their hilarious launch video criticized the common marketing and pricing of their competitors products, while highlighting their product in a video that immediately resonates with users. The freshness of their approach went viral, leading to the crashing of their site and a shout out from Sir Richard Branson.
These companies and others like them are changing public expectations; they are consistent in their actions and strike a chord by doing a few things effectively;
- Not every action is tied to immediate economic gains
- Use of transparency as an advantage
- Maintaining a colloquial tone
- Creating ways that employees can connect with customers
The focus on engagement cannot be understated. Jumping on every Internet meme might be effective in the short term but it’s not creating true value. There are hundreds of “social media guru’s” that make overarching claim about social media, in reality every industry and segment is different. A company must adapt to their situation. If a company can do that and maintain an honest and transparent dialogue, they are bound for marketing success.