There are four types of brands online, and you can distinguish between them by listening to and analysing the conversations about the brands. This is an insightful takeaway from one of the most interesting presentations at the Social Media Marketing 2010 conference in London earlier in June. The presentation from web monitoring company Synthesio presented these four types of brand, showed the nature of conversations about them online and then showed some best practice examples of how such brands can engage online.

Given that we’re a social media agency, and we’ve just published our Social Media Monitoring 2010 review , we were interested by these four types of brand. We certainly recognise some and the types and the characteristics of them. The full presentation is at the bottom of this post, but Synthesio’s four types of brands online are:

1. The Boring Brand

The boring brand does not generate spontaneous interest in it – insurance, home cleaning products and some FMCG brands can typically fall into this category. Whilst there is an average level of buzz about the brand the conversations rarely express positive or negative sentiment, presence online tends to be low and there are few long conversations about the brand.

A great example of where a typically boring brand has been turned around is Compare the Meerkat. You can also often generate interest in these brands by focusing not on the product itself but on other elements of the experience, such as the Keep Britain Biking site for Devitt Insurance.

2. The Functional Brand

Functional brands go beyond the name or image of the brand, the products they represent have to deliver a certain level of service or experience – mobile phone companies or business hotels would be typical examples. These brands have a high volume of buzz, and a relatively high proportion of these are expressing positive or negative sentiment. They also have a high presence in social media, but the conversations still tend to be more descriptive than discursive. There are typically a lot of individual comments about the brand rather than long discussions and debates online.

3. The Exciting Brand

Exciting brands are ones that people desire and that signal much about consumers who buy them. Apple would be a typical brand in this type. These brands generate a lot of buzz, although much of it is neutral in nature (people discussing the brand rather than expressing an opinion either way). The brands have high presence in social media and also tend to attract discussions between people rather than just a lot of individual comments.

The best thing for such brands to do is to find a way to nurture this enthusiasm and these conversations. The best such brands will turn these volume of conversations into positive word of mouth and value for them.

4. The Vital Brand

Vital brands are ones that concern issues you really care about, concerns and needs that are important to you. Health and environmental brands are typically in this category. They attract a lot of buzz online, although this tends not to be overly positive or negative in sentiment. There is a high presence in social media and a very high proportion of comments are discussions between people online rather than just isolated comments.

Do you recognise your brand as being one of these four? Is this a good way of segmenting brands online based on discussions about them?

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