Friday, December 14, 2007

Why many marketers struggle with social media

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'.

It won't.

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.

Chris explains:
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.

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.
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 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


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Anonymous said...

As always, thank you both for your comment at my place and the shout out. Greatly appreciated.

Chris Brogan said...

I like your point about the X factor. Upon rereading what I wrote (it was late- what can I say?), I meant to point out that some of what social media doesn't isn't exactly in the ball court of marketers, but there's a crossover into customer service, r & d, design, and more.

Budget-wise, that can do two things. You could work a deal to split budget on the cost of social media objectives, or you can realize that there's some crossover info that marketers can use beyond their typical methods for understanding their target better.

Thanks for the post, and the additional thoughts.

Geoff_Livingston said...

Thank you, Mack! On a day when I was losing faith, you have turned my social media hubris around. Your views are right on, and the need for two-way dialogue in this realm is just obvious.

One way conversations get boring after, say 3 minutes? Yet common sense is uncommon for marketers who have been trained for decades to do it the old way.

Mack Collier said...

Chris I find that I write some of my best stuff when it is late and I'm not thinking clearly ;)

Geoff you're right about the training. I think what's going to happen is the cultures at many companies will change in the coming years as younger execs are hired that have grown up with social media and are well versed in handling these tools.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Chris ... the X factor is a great insight -- and now that you mention it, I have seen it happen myself. It is reversing Seth Godin's famous reverse funnel.

Mike Reynolds said...

There will be an audience for which marketers can carry on a conversation, but the size of this audience depends on how relevant the product is and much of a benefit the user gets from the product.

Mack Collier said...

Agreed Mike, but I think also that blogging can help train a company to let its customers have a sense of input into its marketing. Think: Dell's Ideastorm. The more input the customer has into the marketing and creation of the product, the more relevant it is and the more valuable to the customer. Which of course grows the size of the audience, and so it goes.

Anonymous said...

There is more to listening than establishing a relationship with the customer and letting them see into (and affect) the company. Customers already engage with each other about your brands/products, so why not give them a place to do so while listening in on the conversation? It’s understandable that company’s have a hard time communicating with their customers, but there is so much value in what customers have to say. Companies can listen to customer-to-customer interactions without having to constantly engage with them, and with the technologies available today, it’s possible to capture the most important and useful insights from these conversations. Customer insights are not only great for developing targeted and effective marketing, but also for improving all areas of a company’s business.

Aruni said...

Hi Mack - Found this post from SEG. I am knee deep in SM. I just did a post called Social Media Mania - What's a Gal To Do! last week. Understanding each and every consumer or consumer profile takes time. It's important for me but being in a small start-up, it's hard to do it all on my own. I have hired an SEO firm but I know that's not exactly the same thing you are discussing here. Thanks!

Jay said...

In the web2.0 world, where your first attempt at any experience is to Google for information and then stumbleupon brands, as a brand marketer you should be creating the keywords out of the social media conversations.

So Mack, I'm joining you in waiting for 2012, or whichever disruptive discontinuity breaks up traditional marketing thought!

It's the conversation that sells stuff- it always has!

Anonymous said...

Thank you both for your comment and the shout out. Greatly appreciated.