We mentioned that famous offline brands can be very self-promotional and still attract large fan and follower numbers and maintain good levels of interaction. We call it the ‘social media diffusion effect’. Here’s why.
These well-know brands have two major benefits over lesser-known brands when it comes to growing their social media presence.
1) an established offline presence
2) ‘cool by association’
The two are inherently linked but they manifest themselves differently. Society is familiar with famous brands and has been so for far longer than social media has been around – they have ‘offline’ presences, which, paradoxically, includes websites and any online marketing other than social media. In general, if people know and like the brand in ‘the real world’, this is likely to translate into the online, social sphere. Why so? All the brands that come up in everyday conversations at home or down the pub, come up online in exactly the same capacity but as digital conversations. If Nike play a role in someone’s offline life, they are going to play a role in their online life, simple. We can show this diagrammatically. Below is the online and offline spheres of a well known brand like Nike, Costa Coffee or Sainsbury’s. They all have large offline reputation spheres at the point that their social media presences are launched. ‘Online’, the orange sphere, refers to social media, and ‘offline’ is websites, high street, TV, any point of sale, etc.
Over time, this offline presences will filter into their online presence as people associate themselves to their brands in their online spheres. This is regardless of how good their social media presence is, it is a diffusion effect.
The speed with which this happens depend mainly on two factors; a) the quality of their social media and b) how much they benefit from ‘cool by association’ syndrome. Part a) speaks for itself – if you checked out your favourite coffee shop on Twitter of Facebook, if they’re not just shamelessly plugging their coffee and actually adding some value to their fans, you’re much more likely to follow them, yes? Part b) regards how much people want to be associated with that brand. Obvious beneficiaries are designer and prestige brands, anything that people want other people to think they’re interested in. Take Aston Martin, for example. Facebook fans? 2.8 million. Aston Martins ever sold? Less than 70,000. Strength of their social media content? Very self-promotional. But do fans care? No, not really, they’re going to ‘like’ them anyway.
The fact remains, however, if the social media of these brands is not adding anything to the individuals outside their ‘offline’ sphere of influence, they are not going to attract them into their online sphere. In many regards, it is all one-way traffic and they will reach a maximum online and offline sphere. At this point there is no net movement of influence to or from social media.
For brands with no or little offline presence, who benefit very little from ‘cool by association’ syndrome, simply diffusing their offline audience to their social media platforms, isn’t going to help them grow their brand. Online now on the left.
This is exactly why we see technical best practise amongst more smaller brands than larger ones – they have to be good! Without a massive budget to spare for traditional marketing methods, or even a shop, in order to grow their offline sphere, they have to grow their social media sphere.
Of course, these same mechanisms are available for larger, well-known brands, but a relatively small amount are able to grow their social sphere beyond the reach of their offline influence and start using social media to drive sales and awareness.
The net flow of influence is to the offline sphere. This is exactly how smaller brands have managed to grow their businesses through social media campaigns, they have created value adding, shareable content, which has grown their online presence. The strength of the business and its products and services determine how well this translates to points of sales offline but this will begin to grow, benefitting from the diffusion effect.
Know what we mean? Have a comment to add? Feel free to!