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A few days ago, Mack Collier asked the million-dollar question: Do you "Get" Social Media? Well, call me ambitious, I'd like to ask an even bigger question .... how is social media appropriate for your brand? That's what you want to know before you take action.

When it comes to using social media for your brand, you are navigating in uncharted territory. Social media does not outright solve many problems your brand, or your business for that matter, may have. The answer to those resides in branding realignment or the discovery of a whole new business model. That is an internal issue that will guide first who .... your brand promise as rooted in a viable business model .... then what .... the perception the brand will have in the marketplace.
Our organizations are filled with skilled managers who can solve problems. They were trained to do so in prestigious schools and through years of experience. They can run research and measure results from campaigns with the precision of surgeons. All without a thought to participation by the market itself.
Alas, what you face today in the world where your brand lives, are not just problems that can be solved neatly with the stuff you have. Your customers' context has changed to include what I've come to call dilemmas .... something that cannot be solved with either/or thinking, questions that you need to hold in your head and learn to navigate through with flexibility. This is why social media has become such a big part of the conversation.
The disconnect between having all these wonderful tools (i.e., social media) and the ability, your company's ability, to make good use of them stems from this misunderstanding of problem thinking vs. a context filled with dilemmas. What is deemed "good"? How do you measure it in tangible results? At what point can you say you moved the needle in your favor?
The Context and Your Brand Story
In Get There Early, Bob Johansen of The Institute of the Future (IFTF) outlines several directions for change he foresees in the next decade.
1. Everyday awareness of vulnerability and risk .... in both the developed and developing worlds.
2. An hourglass population distribution where old age is the new frontier, but the kids will be heard.
3. Bottom-up everything, where people interact with the products and services they consume.
4. Continuous connectivity where network connections are always on.
5. A booming health economy in which health is an important filter for many purchasing decisions .... and health risks are on everyone's mind.
6. Mainstream business strategy that includes environmental stewardship combined with profitability .... doing good while doing well.
These are directions we're moving towards at the moment, not sure things.
To consume means to destroy; yet consumers are not just there to destroy and receive the messages you have for them passively. Today, consumers are individuals who empower themselves with the tools they are learning to use. Do you want to know what is the number one network security risk inside organizations? Personal technology devices and tools that employees bring in .... self ... customization.
It goes hand in hand with self-agency .... acting on your own behalf, which magnifies individual decisions. While we do that, we also hold close ties with a network, which may influence those decisions.
The third direction consumers are moving into is self-organization. I wrote about it in my last post here at the Daily Fix .... this is where everyone can be a seller, and everyone can be a buyer. Social networks are disrupting everything you know about business. Where your business model and your brand fit in should be your first question.
As new age was put forth as a panacea for a society seeking spiritual roots, now social media is being thrust upon the fabric of business. Ask yourself: when was the last time you talked about new age? In five years can you still imagine yourself talking about social media as something layered on top of your core marketing?

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Valeria Maltoni helps businesses understand how customers and communities have changed marketing, public relations, and communications - and how to build value in this new environment. As a communicator she specializes in marketing communications, customer dialogue, and brand management. Valeria has come to define modern business as a long and open conversation. Conversation Agent is recognized among the world's top online marketing blogs. Valeria is a Fast Company expert blogger and a contributor to The Blog Herald. She is a co-author of , a groundbreaking ebook collaboration by 103 of today's top marketing writers. Valeria is a frequent public speaker on brand marketing, customer service, and building successful business teams. She publishes in both English and Italian. Educated at the University of Bologna and Villanova University, Valeria combines New World sensibilities with Italian style. She's an active member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), the American Marketing Association (AMA), the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia (WACA), and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).