Until everybody knows that everybody knows.
In 2006, an american activist started a campaign to ‘empower through empathy’ among coloured women who have been sexually abused. After a decade, in 2011, a Hollywood actress took the campaign to twitter and tweeted about sexual harrassment and assault she had experienced in her workplace. The one hashtag she used in her tweets had propelled the campaign into the world. In just one day, the hashtag she used had been seen over 200,000 times online and had been tweeted more than 500,000 times. It is the #MeToo campaign, which stirred work cultures and social patterns all over the world and even after a year, it is still in the air.
In early 2011, 30 year dictatorial regime in Egypt came to an end with huge protests all over the country. It was a revolution which happened in 18 days and had reversed everything that came in its way. Millions of people protested and marched along the streets incessantly. Surprisingly, most of them were informed about those gatherings and events through one platform mainly which is a facebook page (created a few months before this). Atleast half of the protesters used facebook and more than thirty percent of them knew about those demonstrations through this social networking site, in which thousands of such pages mushroomed in hours.
These two incidents have nothing to tell us about brands but they can show us the fundamental communication-fabric by providing insights into a question brand owners grapple with – How does a brand message transmit in digital media. How we communicate with a brand and how we share those experiences on digital platforms are what stand around the core of digital branding. While a strong brand message can catapult a brand to furthest reaches of possibility, only visibility can give it watershed moments all along its journey.
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Following each thread in this communication fabric we mapped the journey of a message in social networks, which we articulated as the Brand Visibility Map. It is a strategy which tries to identify different clusters of people on social networks who collectively make the target audience of a brand. If we read the map from the tail end, we can see that large groups of people (Followers) are connected to a few people (Proponents) and these few people are further connected to fewer individuals (Catalysts). The roles of proponents and catalysts consolidate a brand message, individually. Apparently, the function of Proponents appear more decisive and enduring.
It took a decade and a catalyst (actress) for #MeToo like message, which is for social change, to reach wider audience. The outspoken women (proponents) took it further and inspired a million others. Likewise, a facebook page acted as a catalyst by informing about the wrong doings of the regime in Egypt and inspired all to protest. However, the pivotal role in both the incidents is of the proponents as they mobilized millions of followers. Proponents are the people who are present in different audience clusters. They are linked to the catalyst as well as the followers. Proponents are those who are active in social networks and whose activity can influence the decision and opinion of the many followers. So, a like or share by a proponent in a social network page could impact a few followers, all at once. Therefore, proponents carry a reliable stature in digital media. Connectors do not exibit such influential characters but they are capable enough to grab attention. This is observed clearly in FMCG sector where celebrities (Catalysts) endorse a brand. However, more consumers (Followers) choose a brand not because a celebrity endorsed it but because someone reliable in their acquaintances (Proponents) had used, commented on or recommend a product and eventually all the others jump on the bandwagon.
Sometimes, the Catalyst’s role is taken by brands too to bypass a barrier and directly communicate with the proponents. By reaching out to a number of proponents at the same time, it is easier to reach a million followers. If a brand message is directed towards a hundred proponents, it is implied that each proponent can relay that message to a thousand followers without a break in the chain and as these hundred people are connected with people like themselves and also many followers, the message travels in loops. This is why we see a brand message more than twice or thrice. However, this can be applied in digital platforms only.
With emphasis on impact over innovation, the ‘Brand Visibility Map’ had been formulated with sociological and psychological grounding. This model tries to define the target audience lucidly. To make sure that everybody knows about a brand, we employ visibility. To make sure that everybody knows that everybody knows, we use the Brand Visibility Map.