Reach each of your audiences with the message that speaks to them.

That’s one of the central appeals of social media: the ability to target your message, affordably and appropriately, to each of the audiences you’re trying to reach. Create a YouTube clip with an edge to hook your under-25s. Create a business-value app on LinkedIn to reach your b2b audience. Sponsor a mom’s group on Facebook with your most family-friendly lines.

It’s especially key for products and services that require buy-in from multiple decision-makers. If your purchaser has one or more influencers, and those influencers are in different market segments, you need the kind of niche messaging that social media can support.

But what happens when your worlds collide, and your Facebook mom catches your business message? Or your b2b customer sees that edgy brand on YouTube? How do you establish niche messages while maintaining an authentic brand — a brand that keeps its integrity even when the pitch is tailored to different audiences?

In short, how do you achieve the Golden Graham Effect?

The Golden Graham Effect is what happens when a product or service achieves a consistent and coherent brand, despite offering different benefits to different audiences.

I discovered the Golden Graham Effect when I was pregnant with each of my two kids, I didn’t have any of the clich├ęd cravings for pickles, peanut butter or even chocolate. My craving was for Golden Grahams, a sugary breakfast cereal that was my bedtime snack every night for months.

Confessing my Golden Grahams cravings led to the discovery that I wasn’t the only thirtysomething with warm childhood memories of this particular cereal. Like me, a number of my friends got Golden Grahams on the allowed list in our otherwise sugar-limited households. In my house, “junk” cereals like Froot Loops and Cap’n Crunch were allowed only as a birthday treat. Every day cereals were low sugar brands like Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies and Shreddies (thank god, I didn’t grow up one of those homes that only allowed 100% sugar free puffed rice.)

Mysteriously, Golden Grahams made it through the sugar-limited gauntlet. I can guarantee you that this admission wasn’t due to its health merits: take one bite of the stuff and you’ll see it’s closer to Frosted Flakes than to Bran Flakes. But my [link]Adele Davis[/link]-worshipping mother let me buy it week after week.

Call it a parental oversight. But the discovery that so many other friends also obtained Most Favored Cereal status for these little sugar pellets had me wondering what kind of 1970s advertising genius got Golden Grahams into so many health-conscious cupboards. How did Golden Grahams simultaneously sell parents on its healthfulness, while letting us kids know that this was the good stuff: the delicious, sugary cereal that was normally forbidden?

Revisiting a 1979 ad on YouTube gives you some clue. The ad sells the wholesome, family image: this is the kind of cereal people eat when they’re camping! Can’t get much healthier than that.

But what let us kids know that these were worth trying? The repeated use of the word “honey”? Some kind of subconscious imagery visible only to pre-teens? Thinking back to my own sugar-starved childhood, I’m guessing that it didn’t take much to cue me that a cereal like this might be a step up (or down) in the junk-breakfast pyramid. And I can guarantee you that any of us who succeeded in getting the stuff would darn well go back for more. Especially when it had 3.5 times as much sugar as the competition.

I can come up with that 3.5 figure today, when nutrition information is readily available. It took me all of two minutes to find the nutritional info for Golden Grahams and for Rice Krispies.

In 1979, those numbers were harder to come by, which is what made the Golden Grahams play possible. Under conditions of imperfect information, Golden Grahams could cultivate a completely different parent-facing message from the brand value it actually delivered to kids. Sell parents on the healthy image, and let kids urge them to come back for more.

Today, social media doesn’t just offer the opportunity for niche messaging. It introduces the informational equivalent of nutritional labeling for every product, and every service on the market. Offer contradictory messages to different customers, and chances are they will come across each and every one — or enough of them to notice your inconsistencies. Offer one thing to purchasers, and another to consumers; one thing to parents, and another to kids: they’ll find out. Offer inconsistent value, spotty service, or low-quality products: your customers will hear about it from one another, and your potential customers will evaporate before your eyes.

There’s nothing wrong with a marketing strategy that goes for the brass ring — or in this case, the Golden Graham. By all means, embrace social media as a way of speaking to each of your particular audiences, and telling them the story of what you can do specifically for them.

But remember that your product or service has to live up to each and every one of those stories. If it can, the payoff will be 3.5 times as sweet.