Create Hype for Your Brand – Engage Cultural Curators

One of the more interesting events I attended during Social Media Week Toronto was an interactive discussion, “Cultural Curators – Creating and Controlling Hype in the Digital Age”, led by Daniel Berkal, Director of Knowledge and Insights at The Palmerston Group.

Berkal provided insights on how things, such as brands, events, people or news items, become popular in a digitized, connected world that is ridiculously abundant in media sources and information – all competing for attention. He encouraged the audience to think about what garners their attention, and more specifically who communicates or delivers relevant information to them.

It is an open playing field, with people often gathering their information from the same sources. Social media enthusiasts look to websites such as Mashable, ReadWriteWeb and TechCrunch. News junkies might turn to CNN or The Globe and Mail. Fans of celebrity gossip rely on the likes of TMZ and Lainey Gossip.

There are certain people, however, who wield more influence than others on just what becomes popular and gains attention in the online world – Cultural Curators.

According to Berkel, Cultural Curators have a number of common traits. Most notably, they tend to be spontaneous, open-minded, uncensored, truthful, accessible, confident and, perhaps not surprisingly, opinionated. Their voices, for the most part, are louder than others, enabling their influence to spread.

Content is king, and Cultural Curators are most definitely concerned about the quality of content they produce. However, it’s also important for curators to be connected with the right people, and have knowledge of the role each person in their network plays. They need to know their audience, and provide information that is timely, relevant and authentic.

They also, quite notably, engage with their audience – and provide them with information that is leading edge, ahead of the masses, to keep them engaged.

Using the above as a guideline, over time Cultural Curators become recognized and build clout, expanding their influence and their following. Now, the trick is for companies and brands to attract, engage and build relationships with the right curators for their target customers.

Key Considerations for Launching a Social Media Strategy

More and more companies are embracing digital and social media as an opportunity to engage and deepen relationships with customers, augmenting or even replacing traditional marketing strategies. A recent example, rather move forward with a traditional Super Bowl TV spot, Pepsi launched the Pepsi Refresh Project. Through the $20 million crowdsourcing initiative, which will no doubt be a marketing case study, people are enticed to submit and vote on ideas that will have a positive impact on society. The best ideas will receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 each.

Pepsi is just one many companies endeavoring to be more innovative in an increasingly fragmented media landscape. Such innovation is now a necessity, as brands strive to break through and achieve relevancy in the mindset of modern consumers. However, before going full on in digital and social media, there are some very important questions companies must ask themselves.

1. Is the strategy aligned with the brand and overall marketing plan?


An interactive social media strategy should be created and executed in proper alignment with the overall brand strategy. Keeping in mind that social media is based on two-way dialogue, companies must ensure that the brand identity is upheld and in each and every interaction. Like any medium, desired messaging must be consistent with other components of the marketing plan.  Social media should not be a standalone strategy, where possible companies should consider integrating it with other mediums.  For example, a print ad could drive people to a Facebook fan page, with a proper incentive that consumers find to be of value.

2. How will the social media efforts be measured?


As with any marketing strategy, metrics are important. While it is always valuable to determine ROI on a given campaign, social media measurement should be considered a bit differently. Effective social media engagement strategies rely on word-of-mouth.  As such, companies need to monitor the conversation that is occurring. What is being discussed? What is their share of the conversation, for a particular market segment? How often is their product and/or service being recommended?

The 4Ps have evolved into the 4Cs – content, connections, community and conversations.

Here is an overview of online buzz generated from this year’s Super Bowl commercials, courtesy of Mashable.

3. Are the necessary resources available to execute?


Companies need to consider whether they have the knowledge and skills necessary to properly execute a social media strategy, either internally or with partner agencies. Social media is much, much more than possessing an understanding of Facebook and Twitter – companies that rely on that as a basis for “expertise” are only setting themselves up for failure.  As a side note, in May 2009 a search of Twitter profiles revealed that there are 4,487 self-proclaimed social media experts. As of December 2009, there were 15,740. This represents a three and a half fold increase, within just six months! Yikes! Drawing a parallel, I’ve been skiing most of my life, so I suppose I should be trying out for the World Cup circuit right now, shouldn’t I?

Of course, there are many top social media pros who stand out from the crowd, I am fortunate to know some of them. In building resources to execute social media program, an understanding of both social media and marketing fundamentals is important.

What are your thoughts? What should companies consider when developing a social media strategy?