CXO Matters
Media & Entertainment

How Brands Are Evolving in An Age of Social Media

How Brands Are Evolving in An Age of Social Media
Image Courtesy: Unsplash
Written by Dheeraj Kapoor

The rapid pace of cultural and technological change has only intensified the relationship between brands and social media.

In the early days of advertising, attention was concentrated across a few channels (TV, radio, print, OOH). There is a popular saying by Seth Godin that serves as an apt warning for the decline of advertising. Godin said, “If you appeal to everyone you risk becoming mediocre by default.” 

Social media provided people with the opportunity to align their preferences with their spending power and, suddenly, attention became more networked and distributed, and no longer was it as easy to gain attention and sell those same standard products. Personalization became much more important. 

The need for brands to adapt

To adapt, brands – in addition to running advertising campaigns – became editorial publishers and media entities, creating engaging, snackable content of varying formats and lengths. Along with social, brands had the ability to target, test, learn, and truly understand what people wanted. 

The success of businesses or brands is defined by their ability to pull you in with engaging, customized content based on shared interests. Brands no longer need to disrupt people’s attention with big, bonfire moments. Instead, appealing to their interests with more coals to stoke the flames of a never-ending fire has become much more important in staying relevant to their consumers. 

There is a shift in how brands are built 

The traditional way of building brands, which starts with creating a product, developing a brand around the product, and then finding an audience, has shifted from selling products first to building and nurturing communities.

The most innovative community builders tend not to be brands. Look at YouTube, for instance, the brand with the largest number of subscribers, LEGO, tops the list with 13.6M subscribers. Compare that to T-series, a Bollywood music channel that has 203M subscribers, followed closely by PewDiePie, a content creator/influencer with 111M+ subscribers.

Selling is not the only way brands can compete for attention

Brands must lean into building currency with their consumers in new ways – like entertainers and content creators who are foregoing traditional brand-building practices for more dynamic approaches. The new model starts first with audience > brand > products. 

To truly stand out to consumers today, companies have to do more than amass followers and create branded communities. Many influencers today intuitively understand this model, and many of today’s most innovative companies such as Amazon and Roblox are using it to expand their customer base and grow their brand. 

The power of brands

The true power of a brand begins with audiences first and is grounded in the consumer experience and creating value for people beyond the sale to make a true cultural impact. Social listening and audience participation are at the core of the consumer experience and, when combined with a brand’s point-of-view, drive real power. This opens up new opportunities to create additional products and services and can open market opportunities. 

If done authentically, people reward a business’ efforts with their dollar, loyalty, and continued fandom of the brand.