Companies spend hundreds of millions creating brand heat and product lust. They are highly protective of their reputation and brand, so isn't it remarkable to think that just 140 characters can make or break it?
Social media may have got us 'talking' but it certainly has a lot to answer for. Because now, nothing is private. Everything is shared. All is passed on from one to the next. And with Twitter being on track to hit 500 million users by March -- up from 200 million this time last year, there really is nowhere to hide.
Think about it. Annoyed about something? You don't vent with your friends and neighbors. You tell the world one tweet at a time.
Want to make sure a company pays attention? You don't email or write them a letter. You post on their Facebook wall. Because this public global shaming is very effective in making them respond double-quick to your gripe.
In this world, the anonymous comment has taken the place of the lewd comment on the restroom wall.
Social media has given us unprecedented, behind-the-scenes access to big brands and companies that we've never had before. Now we can see what really goes on behind closed doors, and it's forced many brands and businesses to change by becoming totally transparent when it comes to their pledges and promises. Every day this is becoming more and more so.
As the CEO of a house of brands, as a brand steward -- how do you thrive in this space? When folks just won't take your word for it?
They've become truth seekers. Truth junkies if you will. They enjoy the truth as much as the drama of obtaining the truth. They feed off of solid, tangible evidence. Brands can no longer simply say they taste better. They need to stand for something bigger, something that guides their every move. Against this, folks will still say - prove it.
It's why Movement Marketing -- what I call Cultural Movements -- is fast becoming the brand building strategy of choice. It is an emerging new trend in Marketing that can be found in the U.S. and around the world. It's more of a brand building and activation strategic model rolled into one. A model that leads to perpetual brand momentum versus the traditional paid advertising awareness ups and downs associated with the on and off media spend.
Movements maintain that crucial open dialog. They instantly and directly tap into what makes us tick to provoke debate and change. They give us the answers and proof we seek.
They are about you, the individual. And you the individual are the media channel.
But above all, they're the ultimate in the sacred relationship between us and a brand -- the definitive way for a brand to prove they're totally, 100% committed to the cause and the beliefs we share. A Movement is good marriage, if you like.
And just like in a good marriage or partnership, when we become loyal followers of a brand, it's when the vows have been taken. We invest time, effort and energy into the relationship, we give and we expect something back in return. If we get nothing but empty promises, if a brand breaks their vow, they'll face separation-by-social media - an instantaneous severing of ties which the whole world will know about in seconds.
Just look at what happened to Toyota and its clumsy response to safety problems back in 2009, Kenneth Cole's dumb tweet about the unrest in Egypt or BP's handling of the Gulf spill five years ago. Social media is still talking about these examples.
Then Netflix, on-demand streaming provider, ignored its customers' complaints after it announced it was raising rates and changing its service. Despite 11,000 comments on social media, protesting against the decision, Netflix merely brushed off the criticism and five months later, people are still angry with the brand. And finally, this past weekend, Susan G Komen set an unprecedented example of how one of the largest brands in the land can reverse a major policy decision as a result of listening to its movement, which was riled into an uprising short of a frenzy.
Obviously Social Media is not a brand movement but a movement strategy does include a Social Media strategy.
And the interesting thing is suddenly movements are springing up everywhere. And marketers are trying to figure make sense of it -- what does mean to them, how should they respond.
What is the relationship between brand building, social media and the rise of movements? For marketers there's no way to remain separate from these cultural phenomena if you want to be relevant to what's going on in the world. One thing is certain, in all relationships it pays to be honest.
Scott Goodson is the founder of StrawberryFrog, the world's first cultural movement agency. His first book, Uprising exploring the phenomenon of movement marketing will be published by McGraw Hill in 2012.