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Avoid Teaching Elephants to Fly

17 Jul, 2012

When executing a social media strategy, avoid the bandwagon effect, examine your brand’s strengths and weaknesses, and identify specific and realistic objectives
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When setting out on a path, it is important to be aware of the prevailing conditions and have a destination in mind. Social media implementation is no exception. One must understand one’s own strengths and weakness and have specific objectives in mind. Unfortunately, many business owners think that simply executing social media tactics will make them successful. While doing nothing is not the answer, investing money without knowing the “weather” or having a roadmap, is simply not good business.

Unfortunately, the bandwagon effect is powerful and some business owners jump in without taking the time to develop the necessary insights. While social media can be used to improve brands, it is essential to understand current perceptions first and then develop the appropriate strategies. Without this step, the money invested may be wasted and in the worst-case scenario, the brand might be harmed.

Organizations sometimes fall into two types of brand image traps:

1. They think their brands are perceived much more favorably than they actually are. A business may not understand the chasm between what their brand currently stands for and the brand image they are trying to convey via social media. Instead of teaching an elephant to dance, they set out teaching an elephant to fly. If they fail, they usually blame the social media programs. In reality, the fact is that if one’s brand is stodgy, using Twitter or Facebook alone is not going to change that perception. Brands that try to be too cool can become objects of ridicule.

2. They are unaware of the advantages that their brand offers and sell themselves short or emphasize the wrong attributes. While the first trap is more prevalent, the second can also occur. When the IBM ThinkPad was first introduced it was powerful and had a sleek and distinctive black cover. Initially, IBM wanted to position it in terms of speed and functionality. But, with more business executives buying laptops, it was apparent that there was a status factor that could be appealed to. Fortunately, IBM recognized this, redesigned its marketing and ThinkPad was the market leader in this category for years.

Similarly, the recent successes of Apple’s IPhone and IPad demonstrate the criticality of understanding the value of one’s brand. Apple recognized that design and coolness were more important than technical excellence. Apple has marketed their way to being one of the most successful companies in the world.

Social media can be an important component of an organization’s marketing mix and can be used to bring modernity to a brand and improve brand perceptions. But, one must first understand one’s brand essence. While social media may be able to move a brand more quickly than traditional media alone, one can only move a brand so far. So, before setting out with a social media branding solution gather insights and create a realistic plan with appropriate objectives. Otherwise, you too may be trying to teach an elephant to fly!

Contact me on Twitter @digitalcultured, Facebook at Digital Culture Consulting and email at AndreaGoldberg@digitalcultureconsulting.com. Visit my website and blog.

About the author

Andrea Goldberg
Andrea Goldberg

Andrea Goldberg, PhD, is president and founder of Digital Culture Consulting, LLC and an expert in market intelligence, social media and change leadership. She provides organizations with a holistic perspective on how to best to use insights and collaboration to improve employee engagement, customer satisfaction and business results. Contribution: articles, blogs.

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