Social Media and Branding: Notes from a Harvard Professor


Social media and branding are two of the biggest words in the marketing field these days. They’re both important to the success of a business. When it comes to business and marketing, folks at the Harvard Business School certainly know their stuff. Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, Harvard Business School professor, spoke on his knowledge of social media and branding in an interview with Steve Olenski, social media and blogging heavyweight.

His thoughts and advice? Priceless at the very least.

Olenski first asks Piskorski about the term “social media” and how he thinks the definition of the term has changed over the past few years. Piskorski believes that social media has evolved more into the term “social platforms”. This is because the terms “media” typically means broadcasting a message from one to many, as in the term “mass media”.

Piskorski’s mentioning of the term “social platforms” comes from the notion that people are using social sites to engage connections and to meet new people. Because of this use, social platforms better captures the scope of use rather than social media.


What does this Harvard Professor think is the biggest social misconception brands have?

Piskorski puts it plain and simple: Brands engage socially without having clear business goals. They jump into the Twitter-sphere battling for the largest number of followers or the highest number of re-tweets, when they really should be entering the social world with a thought-out, planned social media strategy that has measurable, realistic goals. In a lot of cases, these brands end up with no business results from their investment, even if they create a lot of engagement with their social audience.

What comes to mind here is the common buzzword of “viral tweets” in the social sphere. If they’re coming from a brand, although these tweets receive a lot of attention in a short period of time, they might not actually be accomplishing anything for the brand itself.

Piskorski’s thoughts on utilizing social platforms for B2B

The Harvard social media buff tells Olenski that when speaking specifically social media in a broadcasting sense (in this case marketing), it can be difficult to leverage social media in B2B situations. However, if you look at social media as a means of connecting customers to each other, B2B becomes simple and easy. This is because in B2B, a company sells a given product or service to another company, but the end users are always people, and these people are connected to others on social media.

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Piskorski’s take on the future of social media for brands

Mikolaj feels that in the present day, broadcasting to consumers via social sites “isn’t very good”, but it will improve. He says that social platforms know us as people in ways that no other platform does.

He’s probably right; even today there are brands and organizations that are just beginning to get active with social media marketing.

Think about it: In many cases, Facebook knows your name, number, email address, who your friends are, what you like to do, where you like to shop, the list goes on. Businesses with powerful CRM systems are discovering that they can align their data with Facebook data (as well as Twitter or LinkedIn data), and with this ability they can target very small sets of customers in ways that are effective and well-planned.

What do you think? Is Piskorski on point with his social media remarks?

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