Branding Social Change; The Persona of Change Through Social Media

El Lissitzky, 1929

The use of the words branding and social change in this title is not an attempt towards commercialization or to cheapen movements such as the Socialist Revolution, Women’s Suffrage, or Civil Rights Movement, but to more clearly identify how we are reaching individuals, giving expression, and creating the tribe around a movement.

The internet may be a phenomenon of our generation, but social change has utilized the benefits of branding since the invention of large format printing for posters during the Belle Époque era of the late 1800’s.  One of the greatest examples of branding social change of this kind is the Communist society’s use of previously banned modern art and movies as the perfect platform to attract, inform, and motivate the illiterate masses.

Not intended as a history lesson, I’ll fast forward to the current tides of social change: the uprising in Egypt, Occupy Wall Street, The Tea Party. All have used social media as a conduit to the masses and each other, giving their own unique voice and persona that distinguishes them not only from each other but to the media.  This is where we come full circle.  This, my friend, is known as branding.

An adviser to small businesses and start-ups, Darcey launched the Solo-Preneur Success Program based on brand strategies and corporate citizenship platforms. Her work has been chronicled in The New York Times, Forbes, TIME, and AOL Online; she has keynoted at IBM, the SBA, MORE magazine Re-invention Convention, Staples, BDO Seidmans, T-Mobile, and on her own DVD “The Essential Guide.”

Social Media [Should] Take Flight in Customer Service

I have come to the understanding that some brands are hesitant about social media use for one of two reasons:

1. Fear. They are afraid it will somehow reflect poorly on their brand.

2. Priority. They claim they do not have the capital to contribute to a social media effort.

Today, few brands can afford to neglect this space, even if they are placing minimal effort into social media. Consumers will discuss whether a brand has occupied the social media landscape. It is important to seize this opportunity, before falling too far behind.

One industry that I think has neglected to address the social media opportunities as much they could is the airline industry. With American Airlines declaring bankruptcy, and others not far behind, social media is a key opportunity to create brand differentiation. The airline industry is a customer service industry, and as airlines stray from that business platform, they stray from the innate components that keep them afloat. This past week, I witnessed a missed-opportunity first hand.

My Flight Experience:
I recently traveled on a flight with Continental/United Airlines (recently partnered) where I was forced to de-board two separate planes because of malfunctioning equipment (thankfully, the third plane was in working order). During this twelve hour debacle, I decided to experiment with the @continental (which is no longer maintained) and @united accounts to see what type of response I would get. I had the time on my hands, so why not put social media efforts to the test? After sending numerous tweets to both accounts from my personal account (@mikeeev), I heard nothing. Not one response and still none to date.

Then, having recently listened to former Jet Blue CEO David Neeleman speak about customer service, I decided to tweet @JetBlue. I read on their account that they did not respond to any formal complaints, but I figured I would tweet at them to see if I received a response. It was a Tuesday evening and I told them I was stranded at the airport with two faulty planes and was very annoyed with my current airline.

Within minutes I received two tweets, the first asking what they could help with and the second providing me with a phone number to the company. In those tweets, a combined less than 280 characters, I was won over.

The Conclusion:
If United had responded to my tweet, I would have felt more valued as a customer. End of story. And in order to survive a cut-throat industry like the airline industry, brands cannot afford to lose customer value. Jet Blue re-affirmed that a competitor can be there for me. So all else the same, why would I choose a non-responsive brand over one that responds to me? I wouldn’t.

Social Media is now not only a bonus space for big brands, but a requirement. Consumers are beginning to expect direct outreach via social platforms, and those who fail to see this might have more than two faulty planes to deal with.

Michael Varallo is a digital marketer with expertise in social media, mobile, branding, and email marketing. He is also a research fellow at Fordham University’s Center for Positive Marketing. Reach him on twitter @mikeeev or find his contact information on More can be read on positive marketing and brand influence at The Center for Positive Marketing at Fordham University.

Event Spotlight: Tips to Build Brand Relationships Amidst the Social Media Clutter, Hosted by MTV and Text 100

If you’re in NYC during Social Media Week, don’t miss out on this great panel hosted by MTV and Text 100. Be prepared: the rule books are being thrown out, rewritten, and then thrown out again.

  • What’s this event called? Tips to Build Brand Relationships Amidst the Social Media Clutter
  • Where will this event be held? Art & Culture Hub at Hearst
  • When will this event be held? Thursday, February 10th from 9 AM to 11 AM
  • Who is hosting this event? MTV and TEXT 100
  • Look who’s talking: Moderator: Brenna Ehrlich (Mashable), Speakers: Chris Ficarra, SVP Integrated Marketing (Digital Music Ad Sales, MTV), Tara O’Donnell (Text 100) and Tom Fishman, Social Media Manager (MTV)
  • What’s this event all about? We all know a killer social media strategy and flawless execution can augment a business or personal brand. With social media channels constantly changing the marketing scene, we need to weed through influential tools, online communities and digital footprints to meet the needs of unreliable and unpredictable customers. But what’s driving your customers and influencers? How can you plan for and measure something that is viral by nature? And how do you stand out among the thousands of people who consider themselves “social media experts”?

Grab a coffee and find out what this panel has to say—and catch a glimpse of case studies from around the world that show true ROI! (Oh yea-and don’t forget to register!)

Joanna Firneno is a contributing writer to the Social Media Week blog and is an Associate Communications Manager at Deep Focus.