Managing expectations: the passion of ideas vs. the passion for brands in social media

Social media is taking people powered organizing to a new level – the relative ease, speed, and agility with which groups of like-minded people can get together and affect change is amazing. The real life examples of this power continue to roll in and while the case studies are intoxicating, from a marketing and brand standpoint, it’s a good idea to separate the insights from the actions and ultimately to manage our expectations as marketers/ communicators.

A recent example of the power of social networks to rapidly mobilize and pull together an amazing “crowdsourced” event is the geek holiday party in Toronto which benefits the Daily Bread Food Bank. This event didn’t exist prior to a week ago and so far has raised over $8k for charity based only on Twitter communications (while the event will use other channels – Flickr, YouTube, etc. the organizing and promotion has happened almost exclusively via Twitter networks) by a group of people who got together and decided to throw a party. The money raised from ticket sales is impressive with over 100 folks signed up to attend, but the small business community has stepped up as well and sponsored the event, and the venue (Mod Club) and ticket agent (Eventbrite) have also waived their fees to help with a good cause. All in all this mobilization and the resulting support has been something to behold – check out the twitter search stream for a sampling of how active and generous the community has been!

(Other recent examples are of course the #motrinmoms recent controversy and the #mumbai tragedy, but those have been well covered, and for these purposes I’m going to focus on what brands can learn from the #hohoto example.)

However, the temptation will be to say this is another proof of concept that social media works and use this as a case study for how brands should jump on board and harness this crowdsourcing. Yes and no. While this does prove in the power of the tools to mobilize and activate individuals, it’s not something brands should *expect* to happen for them just by participating in the social web. There is a difference between passion for an IDEA and passion for a BRAND after all.

Here are a few key insights that companies can learn from #hohoto and what makes it different from outreach and participation in SocMed for a brand -

  1. This event needed influential catalysts – the Mesh Conference team who are well known and liked influencers on the Toronto scene stepped in at the outset and pledged their support & promoted and “re-tweeted” the details non-stop to their network of “influencers” in the Toronto tech & communications community.
  2. It’s the holiday season and geeks like any reason to get out and network in person – throw in a charity angle and you’ve got a winner of an idea.
  3. Low commitment on behalf of the attendees – it’s a party after all, not providing intellectual property for the benefit of a company brand.
  4. Lowered expectations surrounding the implementation – the website and promotion was a work-in-progress by a loose group of individuals. There were some snafus – the website didn’t actually list the event details when it first went up, the date changed after the launch & tickets were sold, and there were spelling mistakes, etc on the site. No harm, no foul, but if this was a “brand” event I expect the reaction would have been a tad harsh to the “launch & learn” approach.
  5. The timeline for the event is tight – it’s being held on December 15th and therefore the constant stream of #hohoto hashtags and promotion is tolerated and embraced. If this were for a brand program I think we may have seen some “cease & desist” snark and comments from the Twitter community when every other tweet is about the event from personal accounts.
  6. The tools are powerful and the “cool factor” of tweet streams, on-site video streaming, twitter DJ requests, etc. etc. are important to extending the reach and motivating this particular community, *but* without the two key IDEAS – holiday party networking & charity – they are just that, cool tools.

For a brand venturing or participating in the space it would be dangerous to expect the same type of response for a purely commercial endeavour. Crowdsourcing can be powerful, but it can also backfire if the right insights aren’t there at the outset. Planning matters and a good idea will still rule.

Participating and building a network honestly is the rule of the day, and ensuring that you’re tapping into the passions of individuals for something they care about will motivate people far more than any shiny tool will.

If you don’t receive the same type of response to your brand, don’t be discouraged, it’s a different experience. Your response is probably just fine for your goals… if they were realistically set to begin with.

See you at #hohoto on the 15th? :)

[photo credit: Derektor via Flickr]

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Comments (6) to “Managing expectations: the passion of ideas vs. the passion for brands in social media”

  1. Great post Tamera, very insightful

  2. Tamera,

    This is an excellent post and dovetails well with the concept of intent that I have been formulating recently.

    Social Media is — and can be — a very powerful tool for people, companies and brands, but the success of their efforts, is directly proportionate to the intent of their engagement.

    In the scenario you highlight with #hohoto, it had a charitable angle, and their intent was to raise money for a good cause, an authentic intention that users can get behind and happily support — especially around the holidays. @epicchange’s #tweetsgiving fundraising event on Twitter also achieved similar, staggering results.

    On the opposite side of the spectrum, the intent of #motrinmoms, for better or for worse, was to mobilize for purposes of expressing their dissatisfaction with the ad to McNeil, and negativity is, unfortunately, another very powerful motivator for the masses.

    But those represent the extremes, so as you pointed out, the average brand attempting to harness the power of social media should not expect this type of dramatic response. However, what they can do to boost the success of their efforts, is to take a step back and define clear goals and objectives for their engagement. But goals and objectives alone are not enough if not rooted in an authentic intent.

    If you’re a brand and you push one-way messages at users, riddled with sales messaging and links to your product or service, it becomes very apparent very quickly, through the transparency of the medium, that your intention is solely to promote yourself/sales with lttle interest in the wants and needs of those who comprise your network.

    But if you’re a brand who engages in two-way, meaningful communication with your end users, listening to their wants, and addressing their needs directly, it then becomes clear that your intent is to build relationships, and while it may not spur the activities to the extent listed in the scenarios above, it will generate sustainable, long-term results through a community who become personally invested in your brand, and who are willing to serve as loyal ambassadors to spread your message through their respective networks. And that positive, ongoing momentum yields far greater results than one-off sales or a few clicks of your link-laden messages.

  3. Spot on, Tamera.

  4. [...] Kramer of Wildfire Strategic Marketing has a great post along the same lines about #hohoto, and lessons for companies looking at social media strategies. [...]

  5. [...] power of effective social media tools and ideas, you should read the story of #hohoto in Toronto (here as well)—a Twitter-organized last-minute Christmas party that’s happening tonight and has (so far) [...]

  6. Excellent, you have some great articles here at wild fire.


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