Wikibrands

16 Jan

As individuals have become more literate with social networking sites and more engaged with the Internet, they have displayed a desire to be creative partners rather than simply passive receivers of content. It seems almost natural for organizations, products, and services to take advantage of this enthusiasm for participation. Tapping into this sphere of customer collaboration and social networking is at the core of WikiBrands, the how-to guide to increasing value using the interactive world.

Wikibrands is the brainchild of Sean Moffitt and Mike Dover, who coincidentally met each other through LinkedIn, the professionally orientated networking site. Both authors had years of experience in the client side and later ran consulting agencies focused on social media marketing. The partnership proved a catalyst to deciphering the new wave of media marketing now gaining leverage. “Wikibranding” is branding in which the consumer participates, via websites and web-based tools. Is increasing the awareness of the image and brand of a business, organization, idea etc through social networks and consumer created sites. The days of agency marketing, where the costumer was targeted and fed the ideal dosage of information, are fading into the past; the reality nowadays is more interactive, personal and “wiki” (meaning fast).

There are seemingly obvious reasons that a company would employ Wikibranding. It is cheaper and sometimes free; it is easily measurable, as opposed to larger-scale ad campaigns that are often not; and it is engaging and a hot trend. In financial terms it makes sense, since the monetary investment is very low compared to the high level of awareness it creates. However, Mr. Moffitt and Mr. Dover surveyed a large sample of the companies that are making the most out of this platform and discovered they were doing so no just for the simple reasons stated above but also a series of very tangible motives.

Rated number one was the consumer’s desire for authenticity and transparency. How would a person know if Wholefoods really has the best products, as they claim, if the only source of this information is the company itself? The Internet savvy consumer would rather read the praises or discontentment of fellow shoppers through their tweets.  This apparently authentic, consumer-driven publicity (even if directed by the brand) engages the consumer and at the same time creates more brand awareness than a more traditional advertising campaign would (TV commercial and print).

The second reason identified by the industry study is simple one: the enormous role that social networks – Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Youtube and others – now play in people’s personal and professional lives. Personally, I feel my Blackberry is an extension of myself – not only is it my main tool to communicate with family and friends, it also allows me to check the most recent news via Twitter and posting my own views, to keep updated with events and friends in Facebook, and to maintain my professional life on Linkedin.

This is closely related to the third reason for the rise of Wikibranding, which is the increasing role of wireless technology. Approximately 4.3 billion people worldwide own cell phones, and a sizeable percentage of those have smart phones. This is a clear indicator of the increasing role of mobile technology. With the advent of apps, phones are real gateways for social networking and marketing. With every tool for sharing information at our fingertips, and with the increasingly fast movement of trends, it makes sense to market ideas and products through this fast and easily accessible medium in real time, rather than through older, less flexible media. The decline of radio, television and print marketing is directly related to the rise of social media marketing.

Last but not least, Wikibranding allows for media fragmentation, formerly a practice only employed by direct marketers. Online resources make it simple and cost effective to target an audience and deliver a specific message. Virtual communities, where people share interests and ideas, thrive within social networks, and within them a market can be target easily and at very little cost. Data can be gathered from websites such as Facebook or Linkedin in which personal information is stored, making it easy for marketers to determine the type of consumer a person is. As well, there are websites such as Amazon in which the costumer chooses to write reviews and based on his or her purchase is qualified in a given market.

Wikibranding not only can be used to create awareness but also to shape, in an interactive manner, the image of the company. When someone blogs or tweets about Canadian Tire sponsoring an event for children with disabilities, the company is being viewed in an honest and transparent way as a charitable organization. This image appreciation costs the company no money and will boost their image in society.

Although it seems as if there is no thinkable rationale to be opposed to Wikibranding Mr. Moffitt and Mr. Dover explained the concerns that some businesses have. These tend to be more conservative and anxious about placing their image and reputation in the hands of the public. The lack of technical skills, combined with an unfamiliarity of social networking sites, makes it a scary environment to dip into. Many companies think that Wikibranding is a trend and below their product and services. For example, a medical device company might think their image does not belong in the customer-participative sphere. Others company might be concerned with negative commentaries circulating the Internet, or viral videos mocking their efforts of following the trend.

Although there are authentic concerns that could cause some businesses to hesitate before tapping into Wikibranding, the positive outcomes and the value added to business surpasses the potential dangers. Perhaps it will be replace by a more innovative tool in the near future. But for now, companies should take advantage of the myriad resources available to them and of the desire of people all over the world to participate as an active part in the market. WikiBrands is an excellent book to guide the modern marketer and companies and organizations eager to open the door to the vast opportunities of customer participation, social influence and collaboration.

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