When a national brand looks at the opportunities for using social media to create impact, they need to move past their traditional thinking about how they create and distribute their marketing content to develop entirely new paradigms.

picture-53A good example surfaced today with the announcement in Ad Age that State Farm was sponsoring US Weekly’s Facebook page.

Take a look at the page, and you’ll see a stately State Farm logo emblazoned on top of a fairly traditional-looking feed of US Weekly stories. According to Ad Age,

The magazine’s old, basically static Facebook page, which tucked news updates away in a news feed under a tab marked “boxes,” attracted only 2,918 fans. Us hopes that crowd grows once its new page, created using a technology platform called Involver, adds prominent news updates, more accessible video, a tab to view the magazine’s tweets, a print subscription offering five issues free and other elements.

picture-48The placement was probably merchandised as part of a bigger campaign — the bright idea of a marketing person, or an inspired request by the marketing team at State Farm — but it will get a lot of traditional media players thinking about how they can leverage their audiences, their content and their advertising relationships on the Social Media front.

What fascinated me, however, was what State Farm is doing…or not doing…with their own Social Media marketing. After all, putting your logo on an US Weekly fan page isn’t really a social marketing campaign.

picture-50Search Facebook for State Farm, however, and you’ll find 780 fan pages. It makes sense: State Farm is a national brand with a network of local representatives, and every one of them is going to eventually hop on to the social media platforms to connect with customers.

You can’t really tell which is the “official” corporate State Farm presence. The two biggest groups have just under 1300 fans.

picture-49What’s fascinating is the content on those pages…or the lack of it. Look for content from the brand and you’ll find relatively little. Click on the content from fans, and you’ll find a ton. People have a lot to say about the State Farm brand. It’s good, it’s powerful and it’s vibrant. But, State Farm corporate marketing is nowhere to be found in the dialogue. They aren’t present and they aren’t participating.

So what is a brand like State Farm to do?

First, think about how you structure marketing content and how you deliver it. There isn’t a spoke and hub model any longer, and you can’t control the marketing collateral. You need to figure out how you are going to create marketing content objects that can be distributed around the web and which will have meaning and benefit for your representatives and your consumers.

Second, figure out how to get all that content out to your local advocates…your brand evangelists. Teach them how to use the content. Teach them how to connect with their consumers. Give them the power to participate in social media.

And third, participate. Offer perspective in the conversation. Without that presence, your brand can’t reacte and grow. It’s necessary.

These are different skills and processes for marketing. They require a very dimensional and vibrant definition of a brand. But they can have terrific impact.