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Searching for the watercooler

April 27, 2009

It appears that something interesting has happened with the growth of social media. There was a time when media experts talked about mass fragmentation with audiences splintering into tiny interest groups that consumed media in unique ways.

The proliferation of cable channels, digital radio stations and websites suggested this would be the way of the future. The assumption was that people would come together a few times of the year for big events like The Oscars or The Superbowl.

This was before social networks, now we are all in these loosely affiliated networks. On Twitter, we have followers we’ve never met and in many cases have never heard of.

With this continual conversation we are all looking for the thing to bind us closer together to people we barely know. We share stories hoping for a reaction and a response, it’s great when our stuff gets re-tweeted. Basically, we are eager to make a connection with strangers to find something that we can build a conversation around.

It’s looking like these unplanned and spontaneous events are going to be the thing; they are the surprises that get us talking, be it Swine Flu or the beautiful voice of an ordinary looking woman.

Brands used to insert and force themselves into planned mass watercooler events, these are still going to happen, but how do brands fit into the age of continual conversations with spontaneous watercooler events?

The answer is fairly simple. If a brand has a clearly defined strategy and territory it’s going to be easy for it to know the types of watercooler events that demand a response or provide an opportunity for one. If you have this in place, your challenge is going to be all about speed of response. Can you enter the conversation with something valid to say at the right time?

If you have a strategy and response you are going to be able to steal a march on your competition.

At the end of the day, these mass watercooler events show just how important it is for your brand to be always involved the conversation, listening and engaging with participants.

If you are there, you will be able to engage in the micro watercooler events that are relevant to your community and respond accordingly when a relevant watercooler conversation that becomes mass.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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