Monday, 4 January 2010

Badging yourself with social media

Badges. Patches. Pins. Whatever you'd like to call them.

(Image courtesy of

Real or virtual they exist in many forms.

We all use them to make statements about ourselves, about things we like, things we dislike, things we like to associate with or be associated with: CND, Against Animal Testing, I [heart] NYC, bands, brands, causes, smiley faces. We use them to define status, prefect, sports captain, club ties, cufflinks etc.

As a teenager it was about badges on school bags or jackets, then there was that period which saw many of us wearing a rubber bangle, white for Make Poverty History or yellow for Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong campaign.

With most of us having at least one virtual identity these days in one or more digital spaces, be it Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, our badges are more and more likely to be digital ones, all saying different things about us to a given audience subject to the role of the space. (LinkedIn = primarily professional, Facebook = mostly personal connections/friends etc etc).  In fact, I  think the first digital badge I got (or in fact was awarded) several years ago now was a "1st million members" badge on LinkedIn.

We join groups in LinkedIn for multiple reasons, amongst them to add credibility to our professional profile; or, we choose to become fans of pages on Facebook or other social spaces for all manner of motivations. On Facebook in particular most of us do this to make a statement, serious, ironic or just downright silly, or to follow the crowd / our friends and virtually re-inforce our connections/feel part of the gang, just as we did in the playground at school.  Frequently, these actions are short term and a mere gesture, a click and a newsfeed item today, forgotten next week. Periodically I go back and do some housekeeping of the groups / pages I am a fan of: things I joined because they were relevant at a given time / context but no longer resonate get deleted.  Which is a fair analogy of where most brands sit in my life. Intermittent interactions based on need or context, some more frequent than others.

Yet most brands trying to get their heads around social media haven't figured that out yet. I am not obsessed by coffee/chocolate/shampoo/flight operators/gadgets or cars all day everyday.  Nor have brands (in the main) found the balance between being relevant and present in my digital life on a regular basis without all communication having to be product-feature based.  That's one of the reasons I like the Compare the Meerkat campaign so much. It entertains me regularly, subtly underpining the role of Compare the market in the insurance aggregator playing fields but without talking about premiums and excesses.

We can even makes statements via badging our Twitter icons via Twibbon, and as I posted about last year, the number of Twitter-ers sporting a poppy for remembrance day was an impressive 22k. I'm currently sporting an RNLI flag, as a cause dear to my heart.

People collect digital badges too - you often see them on blogs, re-assurance of credibility or belonging to a virtual community.  I just discovered an enormous collection of digital badges associated with my Twitter account via Osnapz.  Very pretty! In reality just another more attractive way of displaying data. But so often a picture tells a thousand words, much more interesting to see badges showing which countries I have followers in than for me to write a list....

So next time you go to join a group on LinkedIn or become a fan of something on Facebook think about what's motivating you to do it? Status? Tribalism?  Is it just click and run or do you intend to contribute and engage in a large or small way?  Then think about those answers when you are thinking about the role of social media for your brands.

Social media spaces are all about conversation and relationships. Deep and meaningful or one click stands. Your call.  Think about what you are seeking to achieve. Just numbers? XXX number of fans?  Lovely, if that's what helps you justify ROI, but is that really what you should be aiming for?  I'd rather have a meaningful, engaging ongoing relationship, even if at times when it's not relevant it's a relatively passive one. Sometimes less is more.

No comments:

Post a Comment