Action + perception = identity: Branding in Social Media

Ian Lurie

I’m on a panel in about 2 hours at REBlogworld. The panel I’m on will discuss the relationship between branding and social media. So I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersection of brands and social media.

Here’s the thing: Your brand is not your logo.

Your brand has always been:

  • Action. The actions you take: How you treat customers. What products you make or carry. What you did that one time something went wrong.
  • Perception. How your audience perceives those actions.

Action is still the same

Social media hasn’t changed the influence your actions can have on your brand.

Piss someone off, they’ll still hate you just as much.

Make someone happy, and they’ll still love you just as much.

Want to build a great brand in social media (or anywhere else, for that matter)? Don’t be a jerk.

Perception spreads faster

The change to your brand: The speed of perception.

Alaska Air Tweet

Perception of your actions can spread fast. Really fast. Like speed of lint fast.

So, when you piss someone off, they can tell 20,000,000 of their closest friends about it within minutes. Same thing if you make them happy.

What to do?

First, don’t change your behavior. Unless you’re a jerk.

Second, be sure you talk to people. Lots of people. Online and off. Every ‘touch’ with a particular person makes it more likely they’ll remember you when someone else writes “Hey, Florence just helped me out, big time”. If they recognize your name, they’ll probably pass the message along using a retweet (on Twitter), a comment (on Facebook) or whatever other vehicles exist.

Third, monitor the conversation. Learn to use Google Reader as a monitoring tool. Check in now and then. Hear a relevant question? Jump right in and help out.

Fourth, don’t try too hard. I don’t want your inspirational quote in my Twitter stream 10x a day. I don’t need to hear where you’re at right this moment. I definitely don’t want a hard sell. I just want the same helpful stuff you’ve always provided. And I totally appreciate your help when I have a question.

The speed of perception

Social media has accelerated the rate at which public perception of your actions (your brand) can spread. It hasn’t changed branding. Listen, learn, and do right by folks when they need your help. A great brand will follow.

I’ll try to talk more about this when I’m no longer taking double doses of Dayquil…

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. I love the example you showed on twitter regarding the wifi for Blogworld. Being real can become a big win for companies/brands and it’s not even that difficult to do. Like you said, don’t be a jerk.

  2. Interesting article Ian and the way you write them makes it even more interesting. Good work. Google reader was a new tool to me. I learnt and downloaded it.
    Thanks for the sharing of interesting resources.
    Do keep posting.

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