Brand as a Dialog

An interesting study from the University of Texas recently showed that the typical information posted on social networking sites – favorite books, movies, music, and quotes; major; hometown; and similar personal items – doesn’t always give others an accurate impression of you.

When the researchers tested so called “friends” of a user on basic questions like those found on social networking sites, the information did not help users figure out what others were “really” like. Instead, the researchers found that users’ personalities were much better understood if they posted things on their profile like their most embarrassing or proudest moment, or their spirituality.

What can marketers learn from this study?

To me, I think it says a lot about a brand! If a brand posts very light information on a Facebook company page, has few conversations in the blogosphere, and isn’t really engaging, I expect the researchers would say the same about the brand – people don’t know what it’s “really” like.

But if the brand is creating interesting content, commenting in the blogosphere, reacting to postings with senior leaders, and maybe even having a misstep or two online, in my eyes it makes the brand real. Now I’m not saying to let it all hang out and anything goes online. But if you can tend toward letting go of your defenses and creating some controversy, perhaps you will be much better understood.

8 comments to Brand as a Dialog

  • Amanda Gravel

    Amen to this, Paul.

  • Bernie

    I think what you’re saying is that brands must show their “human” side more and less of their corporate side. Social media certainly allows this to happen. Heck it practically forces it. Though Apple has done it well with their ads (Mac vs. PC) on that old medium called television. 🙂

  • oddpodz

    That’s the tough part about social media that people and companies are having a tough time understanding. We realize how much time and effort it takes to do it well (and we’re trying!)
    Successful utilization of social media requires lots of work – one can’t just hang around on the fringe, one must get in there, interact and build relationships. It’s very similar to offline networking. Some people can build a golden Rolodex of contacts, (online it’s the giant friends list) but that network only becomes valuable with constant interaction that deepens the relationships and when one really gets to know their contacts. We should all think about the questions we ask and information we gather when TALKING to people face to face.
    The social media strategy is a task that can’t be given to ‘someone in the marketing department’ to dabble in. For it to be effective, it’s a full time job!

  • gil

    the engagement piece that social media has created has really enlightened me to the possibilities…I love the Comcast TV commercials. They make me laugh and provide a connection but I’m only momentarily engaged. Great branding, very little engagement. Unless there’s huge coolness factor AND everyone jumps on board like with Apple, a friend’s recommendation or influence impacts me the most to buy.

  • Steve Watts

    I think that’s an interesting perspective; there is a definite danger of using social media as just another “demographic” chart.

    As always, it’s less about the “what” of the customer, but the “why”–regardless of demographics, are we hitting the right buttons with them.


  • Marc Meyer

    Hi paul, something stopped me dead in ym tracks yesterday and it was this: Blogs are conversations and brands are not conversations. What do you think?

  • Paul Dunay


    totally disagree – I have worked very hard to open our brand up to a conversation and I am glad I did

    having said that – we use things like a blog, like podcasts, like forums to CREATE that conversation

    one relies on the other to make the conversation

  • Tracey

    Excellent post.. thank you!

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