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Live from Milken: Is your brand social enough?

In today’s competitive business climate, it’s vital for companies to have a strong brand presence, — and increasingly that means far more than merely having a static website, according to participants in the “Developing Your Brand for Online and Mobile Audiences” panel at the Milken Global Conference this week in Los Angeles.

Mike “Zappy” Zapolin, author of “Internet Warrior” and the creator of Music.com and Beer.com, led the panel. Joining him were John Battelle, CEO of Federated Media; David Liu, managing director and head of digital media and Internet for Jefferies & Company Inc.; Andrew Miller, founder of Internet Real Estate Group LLC; and Michael Steib, director of emerging platforms and TV ads for Google.

Among the key takeaways from their lively conversation:

  • Think of ways to help people do what they already love. It’s really easy to build a website now, Miller said. “Now the key is how you cut through the clutter. The best websites are ones the facilitate behavior people are already engaged in,” citing the success of Internet dating sites.
  • Think about how to make your product worth talking about. Brilliant marketing strategies won’t save a terrible product or service, said Steib. “If the chocolate sucks at Chocolate.com, it’s not going to work.”
  • Think small – and then even smaller. Liu says the most impressive business models he’s seeing today rely on segmentation of the web. They target a specific group of power users or customers that really value the brand. He’s less bullish about businesses that try to be all things to all people.
  • Think mobile. When you shift to a mobile environment, everything changes, Battelle said. The very way that we interface with the web will soon change – instead of text searches for comparison shopping, we’ll be able to just scan a bar code inside the store. “That changes the entire retail supply change,” he says. “It then means your brand has to mean something in terms of value besides price.”
  • Think like a millennial. Gen Y doesn’t interact with the Web in the same way as older users, Liu said — if they aren’t connected to the cloud, they felt disconnected. When they’re in a shopping mood, they don’t even search in the same way, he said. They just post it in their status on Facebook and their friends give them advice.
  • Think beyond the traditional ad/content divide. Your best ad might not even look like one, Battelle said, and consumers don’t care. “As long as you like something and it ads value to your life, it doesn’t matter where it came from,” he said.

SmartBrief editor Sean McMahon sat down with “Internet Warrior” author Mike “Zappy” Zapolin after the session to discuss the next big thing in social media. Find out what he had to say.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVReCORDx80[/embed]

How is your company devising its branding strategy to accommodate such a rapidly changing environment?