The term social media is largely misused and misunderstood.

You can’t have one social media strategy, or just decide to “do social media”. You have to realize what the term represents, that’s the first challenge I see when I speak with most people considering social for their businesses.

The Basis of Media

When you are speaking about using social media as an outreach tool in the general public the first thing you have to realize is that none of those people are reading “these” articles – the dialogue we all have about it on-line ,  its of no interest to them.

The people you are trying to reach are living their lives. Reaching them becomes marketing – just as you try and do in magazines or radio ads or newspapers. That’s the media part of the term.

In turn, from a business owner’s stand point, making decisions about social media use has to come from understanding deeper objectives and being in touch with your organization as a whole. Social media is not a new marketing strategy or sales vessel.  It’s not a substitute for customer service. It’s not about broadcasting a new logo or flooding a channel with messages, it’s about a mindset.

What is the “Social” Really About?

Social is about this ability for consumers, employees, and all people to be connected.  People using the on-line space to further their knowledge, interact with others, do research, play games, express themselves, grow, laugh, be entertained and of course throughout all this to share… The social part is about where you are reaching them and it’s the entire basis of all these pillars of social marketing success.

I think sometimes businesses, people looking into social  and marketers forget the why of why you have to be genuine, or why the goal is content, or consistency.

It’s the why that is important: You are reaching people via networks that they are specifically using for their own interests – you’re reaching them while they are looking at pictures of their kids or grand kids, while they are checking out who is dating who on Facebook, or via photo sharing sites where people like to look at images that inspire them – or maybe just keep them tuned in to

 Social Media Heart by By kdonovan_gaddy via Flickr Creative Commonswhat’s happening at the coolest club or party. You may even catch them as they bitch about their horrible day exclaiming things like “FTW” or “OMG”… On the best day of their lives, the worse day of their lives, and every day in between. That’s where you are.

All of this is what contributes to these theories and schools of thought on how to do social “effectively”.

Be The Brand Who They Don’t Even Realize Is a Brand.

Doing social effectively is being able to infiltrate these circles. Make your way into their private lives and streams of information in a way that you provide value, support, entertainment or information. To do so in such a way that they feel they are sharing something from a friend.  Seeing something from a like minded soul. That you are giving them something worthy of their day, worthy of being among those in their private world, so much so, that when you’re successful they take pride in, or even get kudos for sharing amongst their peers.

The Brand With A Soul

That’s where the brand “being human” comes in, that’s where the necessity to not broadcast ads that are all “selly” comes in.  You won’t make it into anyone’s circle like that: not in real life and not on-line.

The only exception is to those who choose the route of appealing to people’s desire to win things, to get things for free, to get things for less. A good contest strategy can be very successful, but unless you craft it very carefully, you likely won’t win any hearts or deep brand loyalty, you’ll just be “that ad” – that hope to win something.

Then you won’t really be in their circles will you? You’ll just be a tool, not a soul.

The Craft

Using Social Media effectively is to have the gift of just being “you”, and being likeable – being funny, compassionate, entertaining – whatever your target client needs. If your brand can wrap it’s mind around that, you will understand that social isn’t a fad – it’s the effect of the people demanding genuine character from their interactions. That didn’t come from the on-line space, or from computers – that came from humanity.

Are you ready to be giving?

Call it social media marketing or call it being real and respecting people’s time and being a giving brand – whatever it is, I am pretty sure it’s here to stay. The social consumer will demand it and brands who really see this will adapt into understanding how to be human – not just a product. They will in turn, be welcomed warmly among the people. When they say it’s about being human, it really is – the more companies and  businesses start to see that instead of thinking that “social media” is some computer based, business saving cure or fad, the more successful brands will be, all the while contributing to the overall benefit of their consumers in the on-line space. It’s an opportunity to be more than just a product and really be a part of the community.

What do you think? 


  • Hey Mila, great post. What brand(s) would spring to mind as having a soul, in your opinion? I’d be curious to hear some examples from your perspective on this.

    • gonzogonzoFrederic, thank you so much for this thoughtful comment, a great conversation starter for sure! I would in turn love to hear examples of what brands people love because of “soul”. 
      The very first brand that comes to mind for me is David’s Tea. They do an amazing job of fitting right into the consumers life with helpful information, fun posts, by paying attention and really giving. They have built a very active fan base and they have strong carry through in the stores as well.
      The same feeling you get on their page, is the same energy they train their staff to portray in the stores. That’s key, the philosophy , the feel: its their culture. It’s not just a social strategy, it is who they ARE.

      I had the pleasure of actually meeting their community manager a couple of months ago, after having already been a big fan of their approach and work. I wasn’t surprised to see his approach was very much human, and real. There was no marketing jargon. He understood the company values, the culture, and that’s what he carries through in his community management technique. He also works closely with his Marketing department, so this is another important aspect: they have a team working together to deliver the feel, and a hands on CEO. 

      They’ve done a brilliant job: From the HR vision, to on site sales , product development and community (both on and offline) they have a consistent and positive attitude – and deliver a top user experience every time.  I think  DAVIDsTEA would agree, it’s not something they only do online, what we see actually represents their entire company energy – it  comes across really well through their online presence because of it.  I wrote a little about what I like about them in this post: http://milaspage.com/strategy-social-media-contest-grow-followers/  However, I am thinking I may do an upcoming blog spotlighting them/community manager especially because of all this. Stay tuned 🙂

      In a nutshell, they have soul because they have the culture across *all areas* of the company. This is what people can feel. It’s natural.

      How about you Frederic, have you seen any brand activity online that just resonates with you as getting it right coming across as a brand “with soul”?
      cc yourihollier

      • Kelly Jennex

        I think Loblaw’s President’s Choice brand is doing a good job with this.  Frequently the brand uses interactions between president Galen Weston & communities through social events, like BBQ’s or picnic’s, to advertise new products.  One in particular commercial, shows Weston sitting down for a community dinner in NewFoundland, where they not only take the opportunity to promote their new cheesecake lollipops, but also boast Galen’s knowledge of the NFLD culture.

        • Kelly Jennex That’s an excellent example Kelly! I checked out their Facebook page too, since you mentioned them, and they do a great job of providing value to their fans on the page as well as entertainment with photos and video segments, I think you are right on here, its a total brand with soul. 
           You can also tell just by their Facebook activity they are marrying different types of media and investing in diverse areas to reach their target market, while supporting this with their actions in their community and with the diversity and quality of their products –  and I don’t know if you were aware, but they also have an app that allows people to share recipes, save them. It’s a feel good brand with aligned values across many platforms – you really don’t get the feeling that they are selling anything on there, it’s all feel good content**love it**! Fantastic Thank you!
          cc gonzogonzo

        • Kelly Jennex

          Milaspage Your welcome- I’m interested to know too which brands are using social media to show their soul- I’ve posted this piece on the InNetwork Inc. linkedin page – hopefully we’ll get some more input!

      • Milaspage One brand that comes to mind is actually how Jay Peak handles its community management and online presence as a whole. The ski industry is a nice within the travel & hospitality realm, and snow fans are usually very vocal and passionnate about their sport: ski, snowboard, telemark, freestyle, etc.
        I have always appreciated how Jay Peak is consistent with their brand, which is all about the snow and the spirit of “Jay”: a little rough on the edges, looking for powder in winter, for off-the-beaten path hikes in summer, and so on. I find they are true to their brand and soul across their communication platforms: facebook, twitter, blog, website, and even offline publishing and brochures at the hill.
        Speaking of which, it’s the weekend, so time to head out to the mountains with all this fresh snow over the past couple of days… Cheers from Quebec City,

  • one brand w/ soul that comes to mind is Trader Joe’s grocery store. their employees take great pride in helping customers…and having a ball while doing it. But…they’re not on Twitter. The really good brands understand that social media helps their mission. if Trader Joe’s is so good in-person, why not take that experience to the next level? it seems like they’d be a natural. <shrug> great post, Mila! 🙂

    • itsjessicann That’s a great example Jessica, thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I totally agree, I just love Trader Joe’s! I have to admit, I never searched for them on social sites, but given how well their stores across the country portray the same feel – they would be good candidates for a brand that shows their “soul” online by living their values through their tweets or online interaction. Can you imagine how cool their posts could be- with all that delicious content? Awesome example! Can’t wait to see what they do when they take the leap onto social!

  • RicDragon

    I’m not sure if it’s “soul,” but I do have a sneaking suspicion that when the people behind a brand have a bigger purpose than making revenue, that the passion and sentiments behind the brand and help to humanize the brand, and induce other’s to get behind what a brand stands for.  In our own work, we believe that a critical step in creating social media action plans is the development of the brand voice/personality document – this also seems to tie in here.
    Great post, Mila!

    • RicDragon Ric, it is no secret that your deep insight into branding and discussions we have had on this have really driven the depth aspect home for me, what I call the “soul” of the company/humanized brand. It’s not easy to get there and I like the way you’ve pointed out the critical aspect of helping people get behind something – something they can understand and feel, and believe in. It’s so important. Your clients are most fortunate to benefit from your insight, as am I as your friend, thank you so much for taking the time to comment 🙂