I am really starting to get concerned that with all this talk of SocMed, many people out there are losing track of its actual value: Creating and growing relationships.
The point is really to help people connect better. From a personal standpoint, it’s about the exchange of ideas opinions and information. It’s about helping people find each other and stay connected. From a business standpoint, the idea is to re-humanize relations between companies and the public at large in such a way that everyone involved benefits (customers gain more value from their relationship with a company - better info, faster service, friendlier touchpoints, etc. - and companies have the opportunity to reach more customers and give them reasons to develop a stronger sense of loyalty, for starters).
I think Olivier raises a good point. Back in 2005 and 2006, the majority of the talk around social media on blogs such as this one was about the theory of how social media could help a company better connect with its customers and build lasting relationships with them. At some point, the tone of the space changed to 'we need to move away from talking about what COULD happen, and give companies case studies so that they will see the benefits of social media'. Thankfully, we started getting case studies in 2007 and 2008, and the discussion shifted in that direction. But I think along the way, we have perhaps gotten a bit too far away from discussing the real benefits of social media.
There's a reason why I constantly talk about certain examples of companies using social media, such as what Fiskars/Brains on Fire are doing with the Fiskateers, and what Tim Jackson is doing with Masi. Because these companies and people are using social media as a channel to connect with their customers, and build relationships with them.
Olivier has nailed it, at its core, social media are communication tools that allow us to connect with one another. Companies should realize this, and leverage these tools as a way to start building relationships with their customers. And remember, the better you understand your customers and they you, the more effective your communication efforts will be, which leads to more efficient marketing. Which means your marketing costs go down.
One of the first posts I left on this blog back in 2006 included this thought, which is still relevant today:
That's the power of being a part of the community. And it goes beyond the obvious; that being a part of the community means you better understand your customers. What happens when you better understand your customers is that you can better serve them by anticipating their wants and needs. And the best part? As we correctly anticipate the consumers' wants and needs, and fill them, a trust is developed, which leads to the consumer lowering their defenses and letting us interact with them on a deeper level. This leads to a greater understanding of their needs, which means we can more quickly and effectively meet these needs, and thus the cycle is created.
Extra point: With that higher level of trust comes the creation of a barrier to entry for your competitors.
Don't focus on using social media to 'create' community, focus on using social media as a way to connect with your customers and join them in THEIR space. Willie Davidson was once asked if Harley Davidson does any market research to better understand their customers. Davidson responded "Oh sure we are in constant contact with our customers, we ride with them all the time".
Forget using social media to sell more stuff. That's small potatoes. Think about the ability that social media affords you to connect with your customers, to build relationships and to create evangelists for your company. People that are so excited by the interactions they have with you, and the direction of your company, that they will go out of their way to promote you to others. These are literally FANS of your company.
Your goal should be to use social media to create as many FANS of your company as possible. Forget being a better marketer, it's time to be a rockstar.
Pic via Flickr user Anirudh Koul
Nice post - I will retweet.
Phyllis R. Neill, www.shementor.com
Excellent points, thanks for keeping us focused and grounded. Connect with your customers on their turf, creating and growing your relationships with them.
I totally thought you were going a different way from the title. I thought you were going to be preaching the gospel of Rockstar as Teacher (as in them that can, do; them that can't ...).
Clearly that's my own coloring on "Rockstar"s in marketing.
That said, I think there's a critical distinction to be made:
The brand or company is the Rockstar, not the social media consultant / marketer.
With that distinction clear, I totally agree.
If the SM messaging reinforces the brand then the fans are fanatical about the right topic, the brand.
The risk is the marketer outshining the brand they represent.
Will that's the point I was trying to make. Willie Davidson understands his customers not because he combs through volumes of 'market research', but because he and the rest of his company are a PART of the culture of Harley riders. His company belongs to the same community of customers that they sell to. That is INCREDIBLY powerful, and a big reason why the Harley Davidson brand has such enormous equity. It's not about an individual marketer/consultant, it's about a company adopting the mindset of joining their customers in their space.
Excellent points throughout. I'm not convinced by the title and conclusion, though.
As a customer, I don't care for the "creating fans/rockstar" analogy. I don't want a rockstar company. I want a human one. I'd rather think that companies want to use social media to make friends of their customers rather than fans.
Engage your customers/stakeholder where they live and breathe--same concept the Big Four (namely E&Y, if I remember correctly) employed as they sought to bolster their recruiting efforts with college grads and seniors. Instead of the standard career fairs and outreach (which I'm sure they still do, to an extent), they found kids where they were living. On Facebook. They joined the conversation and found out what they looked for in an employer. They offered advice, when asked. And obviously they discussed the benefits of working for E&Y. Your point, put into action. Good post. And thank you @brandbuilder for inspiring Mack!
Kim I hear you, but my point was that I want a company to want to connect with me and have my best interests in mind, to be my friend.
And as a result, I will probably be a big FAN of that company.
Exactly! Just because a company dives into getting into all the Social Media sites does not mean they will jump ahead of all the competition. Social Media is just a path to use to connect with your clients and associates.
100% Yes. :)
(And thanks so much for the props, mack! Very kind of you.)
My favorite part - and one that is extremely easy for many people to miss - is this:
"Don't focus on using social media to 'create' community, focus on using social media as a way to connect with your customers and join them in THEIR space."
Way too many companies still waste time building their own corporate space that they can control and wall-up... and then spend a great amount of resources to attract people to these spaces. This is a complete waste. Social Media isn't inside the moat, it's outside of it, out there in the real world. Let go, already. :D
Excellent post, Mack. Dead on target.
You hit the nail on the head. Most people are asking "how do I create a community" vs. seeing if there is already a community out there to PARTICIPATE in. That is where companies/brands can start first. Participate in the communities where your customers are. Your customers will recognize your participation and be more open to hearing what you have to say. And isn't that what we want to do as marketers? =)
Great post! - It's all about meeting customers on their side of the field instead of creating a community of your own. Soon there will be no reason for people to sign up for a new community, because we're allready a part of so many. It's an art of being where people are.
Oh about the rockstar/fans approach - I have in december published a free ebook about rockbandism for companies entitled "why every company should be a rockband".
Wow, Mack, there must be some kind of socialmediasphere mind meld going on.
My post today asks the question of what is the real value of social media. Your post answers it quite nicely. I suggest conversations with customers and you use the term connection. We're talking about the same thing.
It's a new way of marketing...or maybe just an old way reinvented.
I do think there is value in both "getting a seat at someone else's table" (i.e. participating in existing communities) and "setting a table of your own" (creating your own community). The former more than the later, but both have relevance imo.
Great post! Bama should play football as well as you blog. :)
Thanks for the Fiskars love, Mack. Some people may think it's an old story, and maybe the creation of it is - but the beauty of it is that almost 3 years later, it's still growing and thriving, with 80+% growth just in the past 12 months!
And then there are also countless, priceless gems like this - http://www.fiskateers.com/community/topic/13560
It's a mature movement now, like Rage Against the Haze is in it's 6th year. Amazing to see these acorns grow into mighty oaks.
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