I frequently hear marketing professionals pushing businesses down the social media path by informing them that “people are out there talking about your brand, so you had better get in the conversation.” That’s frightening. “What are they saying?” “What if they are saying mean things?” This statement is not entirely wrong, but also not entirely accurate.
People are talking. Sometimes your brand may be mentioned, and even on occasion central to a conversation. And true, you should be engaged in conversation with people both online and off. However, the vast majority of people are not talking about brands, they are talking about experiences. The statement that people are talking about your brand should be rephrased as people are talking about the experiences they have with your brand. They are telling their story, not yours. Their story sometimes involves brands as nemesis and sometimes as trusty sidekick, but make no mistake the story is about them not you. They are the hero.
One way to think about it is through the idea of a movie. If the customer is the main character in their story, brands need to understand that they will seldom be nominated for Best Actor, an honor reserved for the star. Instead, brands should focus on being exceptional in the role of Best Supporting Actor. The performance of your brand (supporting actor) is focused on enhancing the performance of the star of the movie (your customer). How are you helping the hero triumph? Maybe more important, are you the villan who is aggravating, infuriating, or hindering the star of the show (your client)? What can the performance of the supporting actor do to define the role of the hero of the story?
People are interested in telling stories of the good and bad experiences they encounter in life. In these stories, brands are most often relegated to the role of setting, bit part actor, or in some instances best supporting actor. The brand is a role player, often an essential part of the story, but rarely the central focus. Know your role. Make your brand about creating positive memorable, talkable experiences for your customers, and seek to earn the coveted status of best supporting actor. In doing so, you will find people mentioning you more frequently and favorably when they talk about themselves.