Anti-social behaviour: What’s the opportunity cost for brands not doing social?

burberry -- a digital brand that is just getting starteLast week a senior client-side financial services marketer asked me the following question: What is the opportunity cost for brands not doing social? While on the surface this appears to be a straightforward question, it’s trickier to answer than you may think.

The most high profile example of a brand apparently not ‘living social’ is none other than Apple. Is the brand suffering as a result? Hardly. In November of last year the brand once again dominated Forbes’ list of the world’s most valuable brands.

However, Burberry, another widely successful global brand (pictured), sits firmly on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to social media marketing. From a marketer’s perspective it’s thrilling to see how ultra-modern has met with history to create brilliance at Burberry. The quintessentially British company has been working hard over the past ten years to become one of the most sought-after brands in the world, and its digital strategy has been fundamental to the brand’s newfound relevance. Burberry Acoustic, Art of the Trench and Bespoke were not designed to make the business money, but rather to engage customers and build global awareness.

From Pepsi to Oreo, there are countless examples of brands excelling on social media and capturing the attention of their audiences.  Our own clients, and in particular Tourism Ireland, have achieved stunning results and fantastic levels of customer engagement by using social to open up their marketing to consumer influence and contribution.

It’s also interesting to see agencies using social media to find the next generation of creatives. Earlier this year, marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi took a novel approach to sourcing a new member of the team through the use of Instagram. This tactic saw the agency tweet an invitation for potential creatives to show what pictures or videos they’ve published via Instagram by using the hastag #JobsInstaview.

So put yourself in the position of my financial services challenger. What is the opportunity cost of not doing social when you have a short-term target to hit? I doubt that anyone in the marketing industry would argue that, as a minimum, effective social media monitoring is a must. The ability to respond to complaints aired through social media is just good business practice. And what brand wouldn’t want to know what consumers are saying about their marketing, products and services? One of the key benefits of social media monitoring is that it offers insightful feedback virtually for free.

To me, the opportunity cost of not doing social is actually the wrong question to focus on. Brands need to put consumers at the heart of their marketing strategies, and therefore ask instead, what media their consumers are engaging with? Another important question to ponder is whether your marketing is native to social channels, and therefore effective rather than jarring?

It may well be that at least in the short term, social media marketing isn’t the right approach for all brands. But in a world where most of us are glued to a screen, it’s hard to imagine many brands having long-term staying power outside of the rapidly expanding medium.

Alan Thorpe is Business Development Director at Indicia.