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Social Media Branding

Brands are social. Technology is an accelerant.

Remember what life was like before Facebook? It doesn’t really matter whether you do or not. Those days are gone, and they’re not coming back. The ways in which companies interact with their customers have changed forever thanks to social media.


New Interactions

Exactly what kind of impact social media will have on graphic identity design has yet to be determined. Preliminary indications point to a significant impact, one in which do-it-yourself tools allow customers to create and protect their own identities in spaces where they commingle with the graphic identities of companies large and small. On Twitter, Facebook, or any social networking site, who’s to say a company’s graphic identity has any more influence than an individual bloggers graphic identity?

Organizations will need to consider how their brands—as represented by their graphic identities—translate into these new channels. A focus on consistency and clarity is warranted. More importantly, designers can encourage organizations with whom they work to stay open to learning about the new constraints and opportunities presented by social media as they arise.

New Interactions
The world of social media is flat, where corporate graphic identities and the identities of their customers inhabit the same spaces.

Social Innovation

New media are continually offering new opportunities for identity programs. Many of these avenues present wonderful options for gaining customer mindshare and loyalty. Social media in particular is ripe with new places for innovation.

These tools—and the customers using them—are changing rapidly. As organizations venture into the social media landscape, they need to have a greater willingness to learn and experiment than they may have allowed with other media. Adopting the mantra of Web 2.0 software developers, “failing fast” is a good way to think about progress here. The winners on this new frontier will need to take some risks. At the same time, consider how other program materials interact with social media materials, and how traditional program elements work in these new environments.

Social Innovation
New program opportunities mean having to plan for Facebook, Twitter, and whatever platform comes next. Online content is increasingly user-generated.

Program designers and managers need to stay informed about these options, but also understand how they comprise only a part of the overall customer experience—and for now, only a segment of their customer audience. It’s a segment that’s growing rapidly, however, and likely to ultimately change the overall brand experience landscape.

Transparent Brands

Entering the social media landscape means understanding how a company should interact in a social environment—on a deeper level than what the logo looks like on Twitter. In a crowd of individuals, how does a company hold up in terms of social relevance? Is it a wallflower or the life of the party?

We’d submit that half of what goes on today in the brave, new world of social media could be characterized as an experiment. The trick might be recognizing that the other half will likely change the world.

In this area, companies need even more diligence about clearly conveying intent, being genuine, and not over-promising. Slip up in any of these areas, and the social consequences can be detrimental to a brand reputation—and hard to correct.

Transparent Brands
In the old communication model, many interactions were not captured. The social media model creates digital links between groups of people. Many of these links existed already; now that they’re quantifiable, what opportunities do they represent for brands?

Originally published in Brand Identity Essentials.
Thank you to all our image contributors.

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