Social Media is Leveling the Playing Field, Big Brands Beware

I recently read a HubSpot blog post, in which the author questions industry thought-leader Don E. Schultz, who says that social media is killing brands.

You can read the full article, but in short, Don argues that as more people use social media, the less they care about any particular brand. Basically, as consumers move away from traditional advertising and turn to social, they’re bombarded with noise. And why would they listen to a brand’s noise over the noise of people they know and trust?

The author, Ginny Soskey, challenges the notion and says now, with social media,  people have the power — they don’t want to be spoken at, they want to be a part of a conversation. As Ginny puts it:

If you’re not providing them with quality content that their mom, friend, or coworker could have sent them, you’re just another brand in the crowd. Or worse, a brand annoying them in their personal space, where they don’t expect to see brands interrupting them like they did with traditional mass media.

Great article and good insight, but it also got me thinking about something else…now that consumers are becoming increasingly weary and distrusting of traditional advertising, this new socially savvy customer has leveled the playing field — now the brand who could never afford to spend thousands, or even millions, on an ad campaign, can stand out in the crowd by being a personable, interesting brand who creates good quality content.

Let’s break this down…

A small company with tons of personality can have a great idea , but due to limited resources and reach, their idea stays in their relatively small ecosystem of influence, but as soon as a big company catches wind, they can take the little guys’ ideas and make them substantially more powerful.

With the relatively low cost of social media and social media advertising, that small company’s reach is now exponentially greater. Furthermore, big companies can sometimes have trouble finding the right personable brand voice that resonates with their audience — in my experience, it’s because of all the corporate red tape. Small companies have the advantage of being nimble, and without being under the thumb of a strict legal team, can go out a limb a bit more.

So what does this mean? Because of social media, brands of all sizes can have a horse in the race and the implications are far reaching:

  • Marketers now require a different skill set – part journalism, part PR, and part…person. We have to be able to create and curate interesting content, and be able to disseminate in an interesting, engaging and personable way. When a crisis hits on social media, guess who has to answer? Marketers. If you’re a marketer, make sure you’re honing these skills.
  • Because large brands can no longer “conquer and rebuild” ideas from others. Brands that lack creativity are going to fall behind. If you’re a marketer at a large brand: fight harder. I know there’s a lot of bureaucracy, but social media is most successful when it’s transparent, nimble and shows humanity.
  • This is the perfect time to be a small business. The lack of resources can sometimes feel like a hinderance, but in social media having a personable (non-legal approved) voice is an advantage. Don’t have a ton of budget? That’s okay. Compared to traditional media, social media advertising is cheap, and effective. If you’re a marketer at a small company: keep your ear to the grindstone. The nimbleness of small companies put you at a distinct advantage of being able to be an early adopter of new trends.

Big brands beware , you can’t hide behind your big budgets anymore.

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