Missing the (Social Media) Boat

My latest post is up at Daily Fix, entitled 'Are Marketers Missing the Social Media Boat?' The post is born out of frustration, because I am seeing more and more mention of how marketers are integrating social media into their marketing plans, but not as they should be.

Social media holds enormous potential for marketers, because blogs, podcasts, Twitter, and other forms give marketers the ability to bring the voice of the customer into a company. These tools allow companies to communicate with customers, and in turn, feedback collected from customers can alter a company's marketing, making it more effective and efficient.

Instead, many marketers seem to be using social media as simply a new selling channel. The WSJ recently wrote about how CBS selected a group of 'mommy' bloggers to come to the set of 'The New Adventures of Old Christine'(Thanks again for the link, Paul). CBS let the bloggers meet the cast and shoot videos with them to be posted on their blogs, and heaped freebies including DVDs on the bloggers.

But in the article, I saw no mention of any attempt by CBS to actually TALK to the bloggers and get any type of feedback from them. Apparently, CBS simply wanted to fly the bloggers in, let them meet the cast, throw them some DVDs, and let them run to their blogs with stars in their eyes, happily posting about how they loved the entire experience. And you know what, I'm pretty much ok with CBS reaching out to what it feels are the show's online evangelists, as long as CBS also makes a sincere effort to get feedback from the bloggers, and attempts to talk to them and learn how they can better understand the show's audience.

Instead, it appears that CBS did what many marketers have done, they showed the bloggers a good time, and gave them some freebies hoping for positive blog posts about the show. In other words, CBS didn't view blogs as a communication tool with its target audience, but as another selling channel. This is TERRIBLY short-sighted, and means that CBS is 'leaving money on the table'.

But CBS isn't alone, most companies are viewing bloggers as simply another sales channel. I've blogged extensively about my participation in Nikon's 'Picture This' program. And while I am on record as saying that this program is one of the best 'blogger ambassador' programs I've ever seen, I also think that Nikon could be doing more to collect feedback from bloggers that are involved in the program. To be fair, Tom Biro from The MWW Group has emailed me a couple of times asking if I had any questions, but there doesn't seem to be a real effort to give the bloggers that are participating in the program a way to have input in the program's direction. We got the cameras, we got a couple of emails soon after asking if we have any questions, and that's been it. I was hoping for at least a blog specifically for the program that would allow Nikon to highlight the bloggers involved, and also give us the chance to give more feedback on the program. And such a blog could also give tips on using the camera, and show some of the pictures we have taken with the camera, but I guess that won't be happening. Overall, the 'outreach' part for 'Picture This' has been minimal.

Which I obviously think is a shame in this and all cases. Sure I understand that for marketers, the urge can be there to tap into popularity of certain bloggers to 'sell more stuff'. But that's way small potatoes, the best way that companies can utilize blogs and other forms of social media in their marketing efforts is to view these tools as vehicles for communicating and understanding their customers. Social media offers marketers the enormous potential to bring the voice of the customer into its marketing efforts, which leads to more effective and more efficient marketing.

If Nikon has any additional 'outreach' components to the 'Picture This' program that I don't know about, please leave a comment here, rather than email me. I think it would make more sense for Nikon or any company executing a 'blogger ambassador' program to attempt to constantly collect feedback from participants, but maybe Nikon has something planned for later. If so, feel free to drop a comment here explaining those efforts.



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posted by Mack Collier @ 8:43 AM,

15 Comments:

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Roger von Oech said...

Excellent take, Mack. I read the same WSJ article about the "CBS and the Mommy Bloggers." I almost had the feeling that CBS was just humoring them so they could exploit their networks, rather than — as you suggest — soliciting ideas from them.

 
At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Kris Hoet said...

Hey Mack - I fully agree with what you see and I'm feeling the frustration as well. It's good to see that some marketers at least are aware of services such as Twitter and the like, but they do tend to use it mainly as another push communication tool rather than anything else... and that's sad.

The concept of 'the age of conversation' doesn't seem to be clear to many yet.

- Kris

 
At 11:45 AM, Anonymous patmcgraw said...

But aren't there enough ways to bring the voice of the customer into the company? Why do we need these new channels to achieve this goal? What ever happened to just talking with them?

I am all for new channels and technology but screw the hi tech - walk the floors of your stores, make a call, get your backside on a plane and go sit down with your customers and listen!

What we're going to see is everyone running to blogs and social networking sites so they can ignore the customer dialogue via a new channel. It's easier to chase the latest shiny object than sit down and make the current opportunities work.

 
At 12:40 PM, Anonymous CK said...

Good post, Mack. Glad I read this one in addition to the one at The Fix. I'm sure Nikon will come through and ask for your feedback now that you've mentioned it. As marketer (who advises clients as such), it's not just the sales increase(as we all understand this is a sales-driven program, not a nicety), it's the feedback that fuels future programs that nets ROI.

Just seems so glaringly obvious to me but, then again, I really encourage customer-feedback loops and listening above all else. So in all fairness this might be a new practice to companies. Since I've seen nothing on garnering feedback...that's all I'm left to assume. Then again, they might think that in reaching out they're influencing the program...and yet the entire purpose of the program is to influence (as otherwise they wouldn't have given-out loaners to influential bloggers).

In any case, thanks for keeping us in the loop on what is and isn't happening in the program. Good lessons to draw from for us all.

 
At 4:07 PM, Blogger BobG said...

I love your graphics, Mack - and this one really fits the post. Its encouraging to know that marketers are at least "seeing" the boat - even though it may be through a distant lens. My feeling is the boat is loaded with potential conversation - its a matter of who, what, when, where and why the dialogue gets sparked. Thats what each of us need to figure out for our market. Thanks for sharing the view you are finding.

 
At 4:38 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Bob I liked the pic too, that's why I stole it from Ann, she added it to my post today at Daily Fix!

 
At 8:08 PM, Blogger Kevin Hillstrom said...

I attended a conference today. At one session, an agency presented Web 2.0 concepts, then talked about "Return On Interaction", or something like that, saying you don't need to monetize this activity. Then a co-worker got up, and said that you do have to figure out how to monetize this stuff, because businesses are in business to sell stuff, not just to have a conversation.

Both speakers came at things from a different perspective than you and your readers bring. Both came at this from a corporate marketing perspective.

As the concept becomes "mainstream", corporate marketing folks will keep trying to find ways to integrate this craft with other marketing activities. As that happens, the craft is diluted, and deviates from the vision you and your audience propose.

 
At 8:28 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"I attended a conference today. At one session, an agency presented Web 2.0 concepts, then talked about "Return On Interaction", or something like that, saying you don't need to monetize this activity. Then a co-worker got up, and said that you do have to figure out how to monetize this stuff, because businesses are in business to sell stuff, not just to have a conversation.

Both speakers came at things from a different perspective than you and your readers bring. Both came at this from a corporate marketing perspective."

And neither of them realize that the conversation monetizes itself.

Communication=understanding=more effective/efficient marketing=lower marketing costs.

The conversation monetizes itself.

 
At 9:06 PM, Anonymous CK said...

Communication=understanding=more effective/efficient marketing=lower marketing costs.

may I expoud a little more...

communication=understanding=more efficient/effective marketing+deeper customer relationships+more innovations (that customers actually want)= lower marketing costs + higher sales + new offerings (that sell themselves).

Also...buh-bye biased focus groups (lower mktg. costs and less myopic plans and programs).

CK reserves the right to add to this later...actually it would make for a great post, Mack (for you).

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Mack,

Thanks for your comments on the Nikon program. As always, well written and all points taken. As I think I had mentioned before, we have a few things in the hopper and are currently awaiting the last group of acceptances for the program. More than two-thirds have already received their cameras, but there are still a few people outstanding.

As far as what's coming next, we've taken some feedback about organizing a few walking tours for people who are clustered, for instance, and there will be a formalized manner for feedback and information sharing between all participants. More soon!

 
At 12:10 PM, Anonymous CK said...

Tom: I guess I don't understand the "coming soon" part...why does Mack have to ask in order to be told "more is coming"?

net/net: He's taking the program very seriously and remaining painfully honest about pros and cons (yes, I'm giving him most the pain but it's to better marketers).

I'm confounded by the coming soon...and how we only know this once Mack posts on it.

 
At 12:25 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"As I think I had mentioned before, we have a few things in the hopper and are currently awaiting the last group of acceptances for the program. More than two-thirds have already received their cameras, but there are still a few people outstanding."

Tom this is another case where I think a blog, or some other central touchpoint would be benefical. For example, I believe many of us were under the impression that all 50 participants received their D80s at the same time. Now a few weeks later we find out that about a third are still left to get their's? If there was some way of getting information out about the program, that could have cleared up some misconceptions.

"and there will be a formalized manner for feedback and information sharing between all participants. More soon!"

The format for collecting feedback should have been baked into this program from the start, not something to be created halfway through it. To me, the feedback that Nikon could collect from the participants about the program and the camera itself are far more valuable than any sales that might result from the program.

And I don't mean to sound like an ass jumping on you guys. I still maintain that this program seems to be better than most other similar 'blogger ambassador' initiatives. Just want to make sure I give you my honest opinions because I believe it can help Nikon and MWW with this, and future blogger-outreach programs.

 
At 12:42 PM, Anonymous CK said...

"The format for collecting feedback should have been baked into this program from the start, not something to be created halfway through it."

Per Mack's insight above, yes. Because social media's true value is in garnering feedback...not selling stuff (and we can all agree that Nikon is selling stuff...which they should!). But to sell stuff they need to ensure their stuff resonates with their audiences (biz 101).

Oh, and I've yet to see 1 comment from Nikon. I'm left only to assume they've left it all on poor Tom. It's been enough time, if you're going to have a conversation--which they're obviously not, they're just looking to influence it--then it needs to be 2-way. No epiphany there, just common sense. Sigh.

And I had a question for MSoft...and they're on the phone with me today. They're listening. Maybe they'll agree, maybe not. But they're responsive.

I'm so glad my methods are on the record here, at DFix and at my blog because, all told, at least we can learn from this.

 
At 4:54 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Again, thanks for your feedback Mack and CK. This, actually, is part of the reason that people like Mack were included, because they have a *very* different POV when it comes to an effort like this. There are plenty of people who, all told, will probably just want to be left to their own devices and move on, and provide their feedback in the background - which has already happened.

As far as "baking in" things, all points taken and lessons learned. Additionally, the staggering of deliveries was a lot more about being able to put personal attention in as individuals chose to participate, rather than just having random packages show up at people's locations, and not have the opportunity for us to offer them an individual walk-through in a timely manner, for instance.

As far as comments from Nikon, a couple things are important. We are speaking on behalf of Nikon in many cases, and I've definitely passed along your specific feedback, CK, that people are interested in hearing from THEM specifically, not from the person who is typically in the community.

In most cases, part of my job *is* speaking on behalf of our clients in the community mostly because I speak "the language" and am part of the online community well before I am a person working in public relations.

Also, and we can all speak from 20/20 hindsight, you never know what is really going to stick until you do it. There are a number of participants who got together - on their own - and are corresponding and sharing photos on Flickr together. We're obviously participating - passively and actively, depending on the issue - with that group, which is open to anyone who is one of the 50. But a lot of our insight from the outside was that if everything was too "owned" by our client then it wouldn't allow for the freedom and openness that makes a lot of what social media tick in the first place.

 
At 10:54 PM, Anonymous CK said...

Tom: I hear you, and thank you for the feedback but, never fear, no one can "own" social media ;-). Nikon does need to step lightly but stepping in would only be to their benefit. Looks so insular and old media otherwise.

On another note, I wonder if Canon and other 'innovative' companies are watching and learning from this. Wouldn't it just be so interesting if they were to chime-in? Enjoy your cameras, kids.

 

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