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By Thomas Baekdal - October 2011

Social is More Than Your Brand

There is one important element of social media that most brands are not embracing. Your employees. Brands are so used to a world of mass marketing that they have become faceless corporations. But we all know that people connect better with other people.

In the past, brands tried to solve this by hiring very expensive celebrities, and in the mass market world 1990 that made a lot of sense.

But in the social world, your new celebrities are your employees. And here is why.

Take a look at this simple picture of Winnie the Pooh and the rest of the gang. They are embarking on an expedition. They obviously have a purpose and they are trying to solve something.

This is the first thing brands have to learn when it comes social media. Nobody wants to follow a brand who is just staying in place doing the same thing over and over again. You have to have a purpose and you have to move.

People follow your journey ...or to put it in another way: People follow brands because of "what you do!"

And this is where most brands stop thinking about social. They focus on getting people to follow the brand, but nothing else.

But look at Winnie the Pooh. He is the leader. He is the one with the vision, the one who encouraging the rest of the group to move forward. That is very relevant too.

We want to follow Pooh, because he encapsulates the reason why all of this is happening. ...or to put in another way: We follow the leader because of "why you do it!"

So if you have brand, who is the leader? Who can you put into the front of the boat (and in front of your social presence)?

Note: For Winnie the Pooh fans, yes I am aware that this picture is wrong. It should really be Rabbit that is standing in the front, as he is always the leader of their expeditions :)

But while we follow the leader because of "why", the rest of the team is interesting too. Each have a unique personality, and that is a very important element of social media. People do not connect just to get information. People connect to be able to feel a part of something. This can either be done by focusing on creating engagement, or it can be done by people making feel "that guy is just like me!"

We need someone that we can identify with on a personal level.

If you are the shy kind of person, but also a very lovable character that always stick together with your friends, you probably want to follow Piglet. If you crazy fun guy, you will follow Tigger. If you often think life a bit of a mess, you will follow Eeyore (who has lost his tail ...again.)

We follow people because of "who they are!"

Not all are work following, though. In every team, some members are there to support the rest. Like Kanga, who is standing in the back of the boat. She is a very lovable mother, very kind, and very supportive. But she has no real "identity." She doesn't expand beyond her role, unlike the rest.

Of all the characters in this boat, Kanga is probably going to be the one with the least amount of followers.

The point is, of course, that if you really want to be good at social, you have to think beyond just your brand. It is the people who makes it happen, your employees.

Take Google+. If you are social media enthusiast, you are probably following Google+ as a whole. You want to see *what* Google is doing, you want the latest news and the latest updates etc.

But the "brand" itself is only part of the story, because you are also following Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice President of Google and Bradley Horowitz, Vice President of Google+

It is not just the brand your are interested in, but also who is making it happen. The people who define the "why."

And you might also follow other Google engineers, either to get more insights or simple because of their personality.

Another example is Mythbusters ...and their followers.

The show as a whole is followed by 707,864 people. It is popular because of "what they do."

But then you have Adam and Jamie, who are the leaders who define why they do it. Jamie doesn't have a social profile (he is not that kind of person), but Adam has a staggering 545,249 followers.

The reason why Adam is so popular is that he is so filled with passion. Mythbusters is much more than a job. He defines it!

I want give you one example from when Adam Savage explained his "quest for the the dodo bird."


BTW: Watch it to the very end. His final statement is what it is all about! (but don't cheat and jump ahead either)

In the "young team" we have Grant, Kari, and Tory. Grant is, like Adam, the one with the passion. He just exuberates with interest beyond the scope of his job. And as a result, he too has a staggering number of followers.

In comparison we have Kari and Tory, who are both great people full of energy and enthusiasm, but the lacks the purpose beyond the scope of the show. They think they job is fun and exciting, but it is not defining their characters nearly as much as with Grant and Adam. As a result they get about 100,000 followers (which is still a lot.)

But the point is that 700,000 follow the show, and 1,120,000 follow the people.

If you really want to make a difference, you have to look beyond just your brand.

People follow the brand for what you do. But they follow the people because of why you are doing it and to get that personal connection.

Ask: Where are your employees? How do I follow them? How do they define what you do?


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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