The Power of Social Media to Affect Corporates

Social Media, Activism, Brand Awareness, Activism


Recently, Social Media has once again been in the spotlight for its ability to force larger corporates out into the “open”, engaging in public debates and allowing smaller activist groups to force changes on larger corporate institutions. Think of examples like Cell C (Trevor Noah and 4G), Woolworths (Christian Magazines), BP, Gareth Cliff and our favourite…Barack Obama

Social media, by definition, has allowed info-activism (or internet activism) to reach new heights of visibility and accountability from larger corporate participants in the media. This form of global connectivity (Facebook, Twitter, Emails, Websites) have allowed local polarised groups and internal causes to engage with a potentially much larger audience, seeking to swell the support for their cause without people being forced to leave their homes.

So why is Social Media so powerful? In a recent article on, called Why Social Media Is Reinventing Activism, Sarah Keller pinpointed three based elements that showcase the awesome power of the channel:

  1. Social Media allow us to more easily connect with support structures, allowing people to affect social and business changes without bureaucratic support.
  2. Social Media also allows people to co-ordinate their activist activities to a much larger scale. 100 000 people shouting in the same direction does make a difference
  3. It allows you to not only connect easier but also to “shout” much loader
  4. Forces Corporates to consider new levels of accountability, where individual grudges (Dell Hell) or isolated incidents (Nestle) can quickly get out of control

So what should Corporates and brands understand about Social Media to engage appropriately and avoid similar fates as the ones mentioned above. Walter Pike distilled this down into a few great thoughts, which I’ve furtherThank God for Exclusive Books adapted to the below:

  1. Understand, and accept, that conversations about them and their brands are happening as we speak. You can’t changes this, or stop it or move it to a private meeting so either engage with the conversation and gain some level of interaction or burn as they’ll talk about you anyway
  2. Create a community space for your brands to engage with you, Social Media cuts  through a massive amount of red tape
  3. Let the conversation happen, don’t try to through your weight around and don’t react as if the Titanic were sinking every time a random thought pops into someone’s head about your brand
  4. If you have a good service or brand, trust in your consumers to act as activists for you as well.

Other great references on the discussion can be found below:

This blog is being completed as part of the requirements of the Digital Marketing Academy

PS. As a last thought let me include a segment of Gareth Cliff’s response to his level to the president. Simple put, it brillaint!

“What is impressive about this exercise is the increase in the scale of the public debate thanks to the internet. Immediate, insightful, evolving threads of discussion have unwound from the dissemination of the original letter and this is very encouraging. I am pleased to see that so many South Africans care so passionately about our country, regardless of whether we agree or disagree. The old “letters to the editor” means of airing issues of importance has been replaced by an organic, direct and instant forum for conversation. Surely this is something we can be very proud of? Newspapers, radio stations and television seem to lag behind ever more as we all become broadcasters online. Let it never again be said that young people in South Africa are apathetic, disengaged and ill-informed. There are new ways of finding facts, starting arguments and getting to the matters which matter. The Fourth Estate is no longer the province of a few editors and spin-doctors.”


Brands, Branding and You

“…brand is the difference between a bottle of soda and a bottle of Coke…”

Branding as a term first arose a few hundred years ago as a means for cattle owners to distinguish one herd of cows from another. A hot iron was placed on the think hide of the cow, searing the skin and leaving behind the permanent mark, usually the initials or simple image, of the owner. Now branding and brands mean a completely different thing, having evolved in meaning in conjunction with the Western World.

What is a brand?

Branding has evolved over the past few hundred years to encapsulate far more than what its original purpose intended. According to Wikipedia “The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity – it affects the personality of a product, company or service.”

So what are the 7 basis characteristics of a brand?                                                                                     

1. Brands are intangible: Brands per se are embodied by a host of physical markers, the logo, product, service of company but brands are not these items themselves. All these elements merely allude to the brand itself. Can you touch Nike’s brand?

2. Brands are psychological: Human beings feel the need to associate psychological aspects such as feelings, thoughts, experiences etc. to a brand. This is called the Brand Image and is a symbolic construct created within the minds of people and consists of all the information and expectations associated with a product or service. How happy does Google make you?

3. Brands are experiential: Called the Brand Experience, the brand is the sum of all points of contact between the stakeholders and the company, service, product etc. Imagine all the McDonalds touch points you experience every day.

4. Brands have attributes and benefits: Brand Attributes are simply words used by consumers to describe a company’s brand characteristics. What are the benefits of Woolworths?

5. Brands portray a set of values: The brand also says something about the producer’s values. Thus Mercedes, for example, stands for high performance, safety, prestige and so on. The brand marketer must figure out the specific groups of car buyers who are seeking these values.

6. Brands have a culture and personality: The brand may represent a certain culture. The brand can also project a certain personality. If the brand were a person, an animal, or an object, what would come to mind? Sometimes it might take on the personality of an actual well-known person or spokesperson e.g. Richard Branson.

7. Brands suggest a user: The brand suggests the kind of consumer who buys or uses the product. The users will be those who respect the product’s values, culture and personality.

So how can we then best define a brand? The Brand Masterclass states it best “A brand is the personification of a product, service, or even an entire company. Like any person, a brand has a physical “body”: like a person, a brand must mature and change its product over time. But its character and core beliefs shouldn’t change. A product is something that is made in a factory; a brand is something that is made up of trust and relationships. A product is an object; a brand is a personality.  A product is sold by a merchant; a brand is bought by a consumer. A product can be easily copied by a competitor; a brand is unique.”

Types of brand positioning and building philosophies [Information from Brand Masterclass]

Branding by Planning: Branding is approached as part of a formal planning process. The typical approach includes application of portfolio and product life cycle concepts together with competitive positioning. The Information is distilled and analyzed through each individual brand’s performance in terms of market share and margin contribution.

Branding by Imageries: Branding is being approached in a more functional manner. Usually advertising agencies take a leading role and advertising is linked to branding. The level of brand building consists mainly of advertising. Marketers and agencies closely link the brand to creative advertising execution. Sometimes the burden is given to celebrated art directors and photographers.

Branding by Experience: Companies see customers taking functional benefits, product quality and a positive brand image as a given. What they want is products, services and marketing communications that dazzle the senses, touch their hearts and stimulate their minds. Here the customer becomes the most important part of the brand. Service design and\or usability usually a core part of these experiences.

Branding by self-Expression: companies put the role of brand-building partially in the hands of the consumers. Consumers also do not want to use the brand to endorse or reflect his or her personality; rather it contributes to building a personal or individual brand. Users are actively participating in creating meanings for the brand and using it as a symbolic representation of his or her inner self.

This blog is being completed as part of the requirements of the Digital Marketing Academy