Just Add Value

originally posted on Concept Hub

This past Thursday the Atlanta Social Media Club focused the discussion on how Retail can embrace social media.

Retail or Brands, in general, do seem to be struggling with how to approach and be involved in online communities.  The recent Motrin controversy showed how one wrong move from a brand can cause an outrage to spread far and fast.

Motrin responded with a rapid apology and removal of the ad. But could have they handled this differently? Could they have found the silver lining around the dark cloud?

The ad was about moms who carry their babies in one of the various baby carrier things that wrap around the body. Therefore the ad was very targeted to a particular group, new moms. Now a friend of mine suggested that had they listened more to this audience they would not have made the mistake of producing such an ad. Maybe. Maybe not. People do not always tell you how they feel in focus groups and even by being involved in the various online communities you might not get the answers you wanted. But Motrin, which is a very reputable brand, did get some attention with this ad. Could they have leveraged this attention as an opportunity to ask more questions, to probe into the lives and pains of new moms? Maybe.

The thing about social media is it is supposed to be about being social; About having conversations, listening and developing relationships. It is not about throwing an ad up or pushing information onto others.

At the Social Media Club event, my friend James Harris asked a wonderful question. He asked “what does an ideal social media presence for a brand look like? What should Nike do?” My response was that brands should remember that they solve problems. Look for people or create communities where you can offer solutions as opposed to push information on them. That is where I do give an ad like Motrin’s credit. They were trying to say “we feel your pain.” But could they have gone a step further?

Could they have defended their ad by suggesting that there was research that showed some women felt pressured to wearing their babies as a means to create a bond with them, and then asked for the moms to begin a discussion of what this really meant, why wearing their babies was or was not important to them? I mean it seems to me that the problem was bigger than the pain. What a great opportunity for Motrin to sponsor a community for parents to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a baby carrier. They could even discuss different brands of carriers and different ways to carry babies. The result would be a captive audience of women who may have started out upset with you but are now engaged with you in finding solutions.

Ultimately brands are trying to sell something right. Well, would you prefer to buy from a brand that just pops an advertisement in all the places you gather or would you rather buy from a brand who engages with you to discuss what is going on in your world and how their brand fits in as a way to enhance your lifestyle?

Ultimately it is in everyone’s best interest to start with the question “what value can we add to this conversation?” when developing your online strategy or responding to an online community that has decided to give your brand some attention.