One of the measures of brand popularity is the extent to which it gets mentioned in social media. Virtue has released their list of Top 100 social brands of 2008 and it’s no surprise that iPhone tops the list. Among the top 10 brands, Apple has 3 – the iPhone, iPod and Apple itself. The Vitrue Social Media Index calculates scores about the brand’s social conversations. They then apply a series of algorithms to reflect the frequency of usage, the size of the social media environment, and the magnitude of the conversation. Tech brands like XBox and Dell feature in the Top 10 – I was surprised to find brands like Disney featured in that list.
On Apple, the striking aspect is that the social media buzz is not ‘engineered’ by them in a concerted way. There was some debate in the blogosphere recently about how Apple shuns social media. Unlike say, Dell which set up blogs like Talk To Dell and went after the objective of engaging consumers online, for Apple, all the talking is done by it’s fans (some by the Apple haters).
To create buzz in social media about your brand, I feel 3 elements are required:
The genesis of a spirited conversation online is always centered around a great product that captures the imagination of the audience. That’s where Apple scores with it’s iPhone and iPod. Me-too products stand very little chance of igniting a conversation.
High involvement category or issue:
The second influencer would be the product category – high involvement categories tend to generate heated discussions. It’s unlikely that everyday brands like soaps and butter motivate consumers to talk about them in social media. Unless they are centered around issues that matter to consumers. For example, Kraft successfully engineered a social media campaign in Australia for Vegie Pourover. The attempt was to engage influencers in discussing topics like challenges associated with getting kids to eat veggies, Balanced diet and recipes and meal ideas.
In the absence of the above two (in most cases that would be true), what’s the way out?
Low involvement or impulse categories create buzz because of great content – like Mentos Kisscam, Whopper Sacrifice and so on. If the content is interesting enough, it gets shared in any case – like the John West salmon commercial.
Bloggers like me tend to share things they find interesting – without any goading. Brands and blog management companies tend to request coverage of their brands. Too much of such requests tend to be counter productive. And in any case, this whole social media buzz is a bit over rated, what? While there is a method to measure brand mentions, there isn’t a way to measure sentiments behind the mentions? Or is there?