Beth had a great post yesterday talking about how social media is not marketing. While I agree with her main point that social media is NOT the same as marketing, I'm not that upset with the use of the term 'social media marketing'. But I think for many companies, they see it as simply using social media as a marketing channel.
And that's where the problems start.
In most cases, marketing channels are utilized cause the direct goal is to sell more stuff. That's fine, nothing wrong with a company wanting to make a profit, in fact there's nothing wrong with trying to make as large a profit as legally possible.
The problem that most companies have with social media is this:
1 - They view social media as being a new marketing channel, when actually they are communication channels
2 - Since they view social media as a marketing channel, they attempt to push marketing messages through these channels
3 - Since they view social media as a marketing channel, and attempt to push marketing messages through these channels, they attempt to directly monetize their social media efforts.
All of these problems conspire to ensure that the company has a totally disastrous result.
Let's back up and start over. First, let's understand that social media is being used by a company's customers to communicate and interact with each other. They aren't using these tools in most/any cases to share marketing messages. So when a company attempts to introduce marketing messages via social media, it's met by the community with all the acceptance of excessive flatulence in church on a Sunday morning.
So if a company wants use social media successfully as a way to 'sell more stuff', they have to understand that they need a new goal. Because social media is a wonderful way to make things happen indirectly. If a company wants to use social media to 'sell more stuff', they need to make that their INdirect goal. The DIRECT goal needs to be something else, so that a byproduct of the company's DIRECT efforts, is that they sell more stuff.
Which means the big question is; What should the DIRECT goal of social media be?
I would suggest that you start by looking for a way to use social media to create VALUE for your customers. Look at what Fiskars has done with blogging. Instead of creating a blog and using it as a way to directly promote its products, it created the Fiskateers blog. Here are the goals that the company had for the Fiskateers movement:
- Increase awareness and credibility
- Increase online conversations
- Create a community of hundreds of empowered, kindred spirits
Know your customers, and if they are using social media, understand WHY and HOW they are using these tools, and then use them in the SAME way to create VALUE for them. And if you do so in a way that resonates positively with your customers, a byproduct of your efforts will be that you'll sell more stuff.
But the quickest way to fail at 'social media marketing' is to use social media as a way to beam marketing messages at your customers with the goal of these efforts being to sell more stuff.
Pic via Flickr user OiMax