What is social media? I know it’s a strange question considering the title of this column, but I think it’s one worth asking.
Wikipedia, that great social encyclopedia, defines it as follows:
Social media refers to the means of interaction among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.
Now, this is probably a great definition of social media as we have come to understand it — but it is one that is, I feel, unnecessarily restricting.
I’ve long felt that all media can be social, in-so-much as they can be used to inspire and incite conversation and interaction; because really, it doesn’t matter whether your brand is being discussed on Facebook, Twitter or by the mythical water-cooler. It also shouldn’t matter whether your brand is having a direct conversation with potential and actual customers (sacrilege, I know) so much as it matters whether your brand is enabling and promoting conversations between customers.
And, on top of this, the great thing about the modern Web is that, for a large majority of most audiences in developed markets, it acts as an underpinning to everything. Something doesn’t have to happen on the Internet to be shared around the Internet. In essence, what we as marketers think of as digital is just stuff to the rest of the world. Real people don’t differentiate digital; they just experience it.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at some great examples of brands which have been able to create social media out of everything from vending machines to billboards, from aeroplanes to boarding passes — and who understand that the best digital marketing isn’t really even digital anymore. It just uses digital media to spread stories and conversations as far as possible.
First, one of the best marketing companies of all time continues its great run.
Essentially, Coke started a conversation about how we can improve the urban world we live in and provided a very simple solution: provide grass and Coke, and allow people to take their shoes off.
Next, a charity gets people to play with a poster.
Here, Compassion In World Farming uses phones to turn a poster into a truly interactive and social video game — where the winners are the pigs.
Here’s a chocolate company making cattle class rewarding.
What Anthon Berg did was give people a very real reason to talk about them, in language that matches their brand, in a place with high visibility. The fact that they are doing it by pulling in socially-collected data from SeatGuru is just the (chocolate) icing on the cake.
Finally, some kids get to go to the coolest movie premiere ever.
Honestly, do I need to say anything more about that one?
So, here’s a bet I want to make: I bet that nearly all of those videos made you smile — particularly the last one. And, because they made you smile, I’d imagine there’s a fair chance that you will share at least one or two of them, or use them as examples when talking about great work.
And that, for me, makes them social. It also shows that, thanks to the ubiquity of online video, great work and beautiful stories can be social, even when they happen in an aircraft hangar or outside a shopping centre. However, I don’t expect to see that in the Wikipedia definition any time soon!
(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.