#SocialMedia ≠ #Marketing

These observations come from an insiders perspective: Over the last 4 years I’ve led a global social program for a F1000 company, building it to a Kred Top 5% influencer; and over the last 3 months I’ve been digging into the social media technology space, deeply. One thing that’s become increasingly apparent to me is the gap in application of marketing principles to this channel, social.

Some examples, if you have more please share them –

  • Listen / respond – listening is a necessary part of a social program but playing a reactionary role, responding, just isn’t sufficient. This innovation is directly parallel to the earliest days of email… companies acquiring funding and perceived as “cool” were “listen and respond” in nature, customer service tools often… Kana, Right Technologies, etc.  After the lusty glow of funding waned, we saw a different breed of email player become valued, email marketing. These companies built value based upon engagement using marketing principles. We’ve seen a couple of huge exits recently… Responsys to Oracle this month for $1.5B and ExactTarget to Salesforce.com for $2.5B earlier in the year. Yes, those numbers are with a “B”.
  • Amplification – several companies are gaining funding and excitement in this category. While spreading the word is a good objective, more people shouting the same thing in the social channel isn’t necessarily better. In many cases it’s a bad thing, antithetical to your audiences perceptions and needs. A perfect example of amplification occurred this Fall when hundreds of socially activated employees tweeted the same mea cupla apology… insult to injury, their audience realized the utter tone deafness of this social program. For generations marketers have known that shouting the same message to their database is a flawed idea. Using the email example again, it’s like a marketer hammering their database with each and every message they feel a need to send. Spray and pray. The first step in alienating an audience.

The social media technology category is new, we evaluate it from a pretty low level of maturity. I guarantee we’ll read todays analyst reports and trade articles in a few years and realize this. Some takeaways I’ve gathered…

  • Marketers need to start using the social channel as a proactive means to engage specific audiences. While listening is important and responding to on target conversations or mentions is critical, it’s a strong customer service approach but a very incomplete marketing strategy. Reactive response will never scale and by definition puts you in touch with people who are further down the road of discovery than you would naturally like to find.
  • Paid media on social sites is the first phase of outbound, proactive marketing in the social channel. While “paid” media is an important part of the marketing mix, there are critical counterparts… “earned” and “owned”. I could argue endlessly that paid media on social sites is different than true publisher sites, I believe the value exchange is very different, let’s suffice to say that marketers need to increase their capabilities in this proactive, outbound objective.
  • People use social channels to find and share good ideas (from a commercial perspective, a good example is researching high consideration purchases). Your shared ideas need to have value to your audiences and the topics they are interested in discussing.  This means that the 82nd retweet of your press release may not be a good thing. I understand that 1st party content creation is a tough business, so how about finding new sources of ideas to share? I’ve had tremendous success sharing articles written by others, where the point of view aligns with the core differentiating principles I’m trying to espouse. Find those validating 3rd party references and promote your position without actually appearing to promote… yes, provide value and people will engage.
  • Segment your audiences and find them in social channels. Properties, groups, pages, and hashtags are good examples of targeting mechanisms. Once you know who you’re trying to target, determine what they’re interested in and where you can find them. Marketing 101, right?
  • Amplify your outbound messages to the specific segments, audiences, who will be most interested… and only them. More messages, blasting like a shotgun, are just antithetical to any known marketing principle. Stated in a more plain sense… apply your sharable ideas to the people who are apt to be most interested and you’ll gather engagement… do the opposite and you’ll piss them off.
  • Tech firms that place the words “social” and  “marketing” in their positioning statement don’t necessarily provide marketing solutions for the social channel. Often times these are lines of code looking for a buyer. Even if a lot of venture money is flowing towards the category, it doesn’t mean that the objective of the technology is even reasonable… from a marketing perspective. What happened to virtual worlds? A few years ago they were going to change the world. Hmmm…

I hope some see the irony this title:-)

Have a happy and prosperous new year!

Mark

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