Chris has another excellent post today(Which has led to excellent discussions in the comments) explaining that marketing is not social media, and social media is not marketing. It's easy to see why marketers are ga-ga over social media. But the problem remains that companies are attempting to take their 'me first' marketing mentality, and apply it to social media, hoping it will result in their suddenly having unfiltered access to 'consumers'.
Because we don't want to be sold to. And the LAST thing we want is for companies to take tools that make it easier for us to create and exchange content, and use those tools to instead pitch products to us. This is where many marketers are spinning their wheels right now.
Now we WILL allow marketers to talk to us about their products and services IF they can first demonstrate that they can use these tools to create and exchange valuable content. IOW, if they are willing to use these tools for the same reasons we do, then they'll reap the benefits.
If you’re Burger King and you’re looking to influence whether I go there or not, use plain old marketing. It’s just fine. It’s the right tool for the job. So is advertising. You don’t HAVE to use social media for that.Unfortunately, the second paragraph seems like a 'waste of time' to many marketers rooted in the 'traditional' mindset. In fact, it's the key to more efficient marketing. In most cases, you have two different groups; the company, and its customers. Both groups have their own sets of wants and needs, and speak their own language. As a result, neither group really understands or trusts the other. Distrust and misunderstanding serves to further strengthen that wall, and make it higher.
But, if you’re Burger King and you want to understand me, to get what’s really going on inside my head, and know what we have in common, then THAT is where social media can be useful. Talk to me. Get to know me. Ask me about me and the things that aren’t about you.
But social media can be the X-Factor. For example, a company can start blogging from its side of the wall. But as the customer gives its input via comments, the language and thinking of the customer begins to seep into the company's space. And if the company is willing to listen, then the customer can begin to have an impact on how the company does business. The wall begins to crack. Then the customer sees that the company is listening, so the distrust begins to fade. The wall begins to crumble. If taken to its happy extension, the line between company and customer will begin to blur.
But again, none of this happens until companies are willing to put aside their egos and outdated view that marketing is about blasting one-way promotional messages at an audience that has purposely opted out of the conversation. Social media isn't a silver bullet that will transform a company's marketing to make it more efficient. But if they are willing to listen and use the tools as we do, and for the same reasons, social media CAN be a silver bullet that transforms the company itself, which WOULD result in their marketing being more efficient.
What would marketing look like if in 2-3 years, every major company had 2-3 Chris Brogans working there teaching their company about the potential of social media?
UPDATE: Lewis offers his take on the benefits and downsides of social media for businesses.
Nother UPDATE: My latest post from Daily Fix, covering a new report that stays that 1 out of every 6 people in the world will be interacting with social media by 2012.
Pic via Flickr user Old Sarge
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing