Creating value: Social Media or Forums?

After reading the “How brand community practices create value” article this week, my mind went immediately to the Whirlpool Forums. I think all 12 value creating practices can be found in some shape or form on those forums, particularly Welcoming and Documenting. Similarly I am sure there are some forums for niche audiences, such as Dance.net which is a forum I was part of when I was much younger. Other users could give out “Karma” to other users for giving good advice, and the more Karma you had the more trusted your opinion, similar to Badging.

Trying to think about a time when I’ve seen these types of value creating practices happening on a brand page through Facebook however is a little harder. Particularly in the company I work for, there is little comradery through the Facebook page but nowhere near the level discussed in the article, which makes me wonder if this actually happens on mainstream social media or if it is more common on forums? Maybe consumers see a brands social media page as something the brand owns, not the users? Maybe it only happens for B2C brands and less so B2B?

http://img12.deviantart.net/d7cf/i/2004/303/b/c/think_linux_by_shekharpalash.jpg

I did have a bit of an issue with one aspect of the paper. While I completely agree that ‘ceding control to customers enhances consumer engagement and builds brand equity’ I took issue with the Managerial Implication that firms should allow consumers to tweak the brand logos to suit their needs. I think it sounds like an off the cuff remark that no one really thought about before including in the paper.

Branding is a huge part of creating a brand image and lettings consumers both recognise you and understand who you are. Allowing people to change your logo makes the brand image unclear. You’d have to be really confident that everyone knows your brand well enough that if someone changes the logo for their own needs, people will still know who the brand is and the brand story. Companies like Apple and Microsoft could probably get away with that but for smaller companies I think it is terrible advice.

7 thoughts on “Creating value: Social Media or Forums?

  1. Nana Osei-Tutu Afriyie-Agyemang

    Awesome post Blaire!
    I definitely agree with brand co-creation through mainstream social media being difficult for brands. From a consumer’s perspective I think that forums are a far better place for co-creation with consumers over mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook. For me at least I prefer forums because they are more anonymous than Facebook. If I discuss something on a brand’s Facebook page, my friends might see it and start to judge me for what I have posted or for simply being passionate about a brand, whereas on a forum its only me and people who are enthusiasts like me who are likely to see what I post. It also works the other way in that I feel protected if I get into a bit of a keyboard war with someone with an opposing view. On Facebook and other mainstream social media platforms anyone can click on my profile and turn a bit of banter between opposing views into a real personal and aggressive attack. I’ve seen it on pages where two people have a disagreement and all of a sudden one person is talking about how really personal information of the other person which has nothing to do with the argument at hand.

    Do you think that brands could benefit from making forums on their own brand websites where they can be more involved with brand co-creation or do you think they should rely on independent forums such as whirlpool and be more of a fly on the wall?

  2. Blaire Post author

    Thanks for commenting!
    I think a bit both would work well, but if brands truly wanted to see what people really thought about their products/services, they should take the fly on the wall approach on independent forums. Like you said about wanting to remain anonymous through forums, I think people like the protection also of not complaining directly to a brand, but to other people about the brand.

    I’ve also noticed that sometimes (particularly on Whirlpool) a brand representative will comment in a forum in reply to a complaint. I assume you are part of a forum from your comments, have you ever posted a complaint about a product? and would you ever consider doing it on Facebook?
    It’s also possible that people such as yourself (and myself) won’t post through known social media because we have already experienced being anomalous on other platforms and don’t want to loose the security blanket of it?

    1. Stephanie (Hongying) Lu

      I definitely agree with you on this. If i actually want to file a complain, i would’ve gone directly to the brand’s website or made a phone call. Personally, i would feel kinda being watched if a brand representative all of a sudden commented underneath. Wise way would be just watch and learn .

  3. Andy--Xiaobin Yang

    Great idea. I definitely agree with you on the brand logo re-creation idea. The customers prefer the brand and its logo if it couldmatch their needs more precisely . Thus, offer them opportunities to modify or beautify the logo as they like. It is not so important on what the brand looks like while it`s vitally significant on the story behand the brand and its logo. Professor Jimmy Wong used to emphase that donot sell a product, tell a story and market a dream which aroses the resonance of the consumers. The typical example is google`s strategy on their logo. The company encourage the consumers desgn their own”google” rather than follow what google offered.

  4. Stephanie (Hongying) Lu

    Interesting post and comments. Made me think for a moment. I would argue that the brand logo re-creation strategy can work for companies, whether it’s small or big in size, as long as it has already built a relatively strong relationship with its core consumers and advocates. These people are most likely those that will participate in it. And because of the already established affinity towards the brand, there is always consistency amongst those recreations, which is why Apple logo always looks like an apple not a cherry. What being reserved is exactly what ties company and its fans together. They are adding their personal touch into the logo not a complete makeover because otherwise they would have cut the tie in the first place. Then whats the meaning of putting all the time into it? Brand affinity is what have them to co-create and is going to guide them throughout the modification. Thus, those who recognise the brand will understand it better. Those who don’t know about the brand will pick up the essence of the brand through these series of re-creation. The strategy is the cherry on top of the cake that can accentuate brand equity. If a company feels like walking on the ice about this, then it better play no tricks.

  5. Maddy

    Your blog raises some valid points regarding the power of visual branding through graphics and logos. While co-creation is now the bee-knees of online consumer engagement, managers should be acutely aware that fiddling with visual identity through UGC is inherently risky. Coming from a design background, I have seen firsthand what happens when the visual cornerstones of a company are eroded to a point where consumers are at a loss to decipher the brand and/or its message.

    Brand community in the design world is a little different from mainstream forums, as it experiments with a visual documentation format. You gain a sense of belonging and kudos via uploaded imagery and the relational aspects of other people’s image contributions. A brand that does this well is (excuse my French) Good Fucking Design Advice ( http://goodfuckingdesignadvice.com ). It started as a visual safe haven for designers who lacked inspiration, providing them with motivational phrases to kick-start the creative process. Users were able to submit one or two lines of advice which would then feature as home page wall paper on a rotating cycle. Based entirely online, GFDA quickly grew an online community of budding and elite designers that sought humours relief from industry related content. The Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Good-Fucking-Design-Advice-134379376608786/) encouraged designers to offer their own advice, which was then reworded to reflect the brand image. This meant weaving an expletive that would normally breach brand community ethical standards into the advice. For example “Use fucking alignment. Make it fucking sustainable. A computer is a just a fucking tool.” Words of appreciation were fed back to the brand using the buzzword.. As the brand community grew, the value generated from these phrases was replicated into merchandise via an online shop.
    All GFDA content had visual continuity through Helvetica font, simplicity and negative space. Limiting the co-creation aspect to wording only, GFDA prevented visual inconsistency and brand ambiguity. Given the propensity for designers to customise content, GFDA was smart to restrict the level of this.

  6. Anthony Trainor

    Great post, Blaire!

    I think forums can great so much value through user-generated content/input.

    I am not a member of any forums personally, but a good example of this is a forum to discuss AFL called ‘BigFooty’. Next to people’s comments/post, there is your username (which can help keep you anonymous), the date joined and the amount of posts you’ve posted. However I think where the forum members really see the most value, is, they are given a ‘title’ or a ‘rank’ depending on the amount of posts and how long they’ve been a member for. For example, new users start as ‘draftees’ and can work their way up to status’ such as Club Legend, Brownlow medalist and Team Captain. This gives users a sense of recognition which gives them a reason to keep active on the forum, thus creating value.

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