is the engagement of a social networking
service around a brand by providing consumers with a platform of relevant content, elements of participation, and a currency, score, or ranking. Brands are using brand networking to create communities that serve as a fully encompassing interactive destination to incentivize brand participation online and off. This evolved level of user participation with the brand creates strong relationships with consumers and leverages sales and generates fan equity.
The development and growth of social networking in the early 2000s gave birth to brand networking. Brands saw the immediate potential to reach and interact with consumers through online platforms like Facebook and MySpace. At first the ability to reach consumers by way of these platforms was inadequate; brands had the option to join as members or simply advertise on these sites. The potential existed to not only display advertisements to consumers, but to engage them to interact with the brand. This is when brands made the shift to create their own networking platforms. Less evolved attempts to connect brands with consumers via networking typically are built as online platforms meant only to complement a product/service and are limited in functionality. Typically these sites offer consumers the opportunity to interact through discussion boards and group pages. The Guiding Light Community was built to complement the popular CBS television soap opera. The site offers members reward points for contributing content to discussion boards and blogs (which is all geared toward the show).
Brand Networking is more than a social networking platform; it is connecting consumers together and constructing relationships directly with the brand. Three key elements, in unity, create brand networking: relevant content, elements of participation, and a competitive currency.
• Websites in conjunction with other media types (TV, radio, print, etc.…) present relative content around a vertical industry or sector of interest or cultural/social issues for a brand. This can be in the form of weight loss, marketing, or business—any content relative to your brand message. Relative content is not only provided by the brand, but also in the form of consumer generated media. By creating a network consumers interact and create content for online site.
• Next a brand provides participation with consumers online and off. This is accomplished through the combination of typical social networking features online (personalized page, friends, groups, messaging), to interconnect fans, and elements of involvement offline. This is not simply connecting online platform with mobile devices, but providing separate mobile features jointly with a secondary media type to drive online usage and build relationship with brand on the go. By participating in mobile campaigns users are interacting with the brand outside of traditional brick and mortar or e-commerce destinations.
• The final element of brand networking involves incentivizing participation with the other two elements. The addition of a currency or point system acts as an anchor to your brand and your network in addition to creating a competitive nature between consumers. These points are distributed for activity outside of the networking site. By incentivizing usage offline the brand image is re-enforced for the consumer and strengthens the relationship. Turning a brand message into an interactive competitive element of a network, consumers are turned into promoters for both the brand and the users benefit. When done properly a brand can effectively interact and network with consumers for the long term. Once a consumer is locked into your brand network with the combination of these three key elements they become fans of the brand.
Fan equity is the idea by locking in consumers to a brand; they are turned into fans of the brand. As fans they are promoting, interacting, and consuming on a daily biases and become assetsApple Inc. is one example of a company possessing fan equity. Customers of Apple are extremely brand loyal and are assets to them.