Thursday, November 13, 2008

Who 'Owns' the Social Media?

I've found myself writing a phrase to the following effect in the comments sections of several blogs of late, The social media tools were primarily developed as a means of connecting consumers, not as a marketing tool. Unfortunately, many marketers seem to be forgetting this as society's embrace of the 'Web 2.0' phenomenon becomes ever tighter. Don't get me wrong; I myself am from a marketing background, and as anyone that follows this blog will tell you, I keenly advocate the organizational use of the social media. For me though, there is both a right and a wrong way to 'market' through the social media. Again, many marketers are, in my opinion, guilty of committing these crimes against the groundswell. Let me explain...

There are two ways an organisation can create a presence within the social media. Firstly, the organisation may enter the social media by 'shouting' their message. Such a strategy finds itself in alignment with the more traditional media, which allowed marketers to broadcast their message to a huge, but untargeted audience. The second strategy, to 'converse', is far more personal. I am certain that you can guess which of the two strategies I favour...

I have always found being interupted in the middle of a discussion incredibly rude. How does this differ from the online environment? As marketers, what right have we to enter a conversation amongst our consumers in an attempt to influence the conversation? Very little in my opinion. Yet marketers continue to unashamedly enter the conversation, broadcast their message and leave. This is wholely unacceptable. Such interjections offer very little value to the conversation, and should therefore be avoided. Admittedly, there is a time and a place for broadcasting, this being in the traditional media at the viewer or reader's discretion. For those looking to create such a presence of an Internet based campaign, my suggestion would be look at more measurable online marketing techniques, such as affiliate marketing. The social media is unlikely to benefit from your presence...

For me, the social media has and always will be about customer engagement. It is about openly and honestly engaging with the customer in an environment designed for their use, not ours. Whilst it is arguable that such a strategy is no longer considered marketing, I would strongly disagree. Engaging with the consumer is the responsibility of the marketing department, and I see no reason why this should change now.

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  1. Chris, this is an absolutely fantastic piece, and coming from a self-confessed marketer, your views are particularly resonant.

    This is indeed the problem facing marketers, PR and advertising professionals looking to take advantage of social media. You can't use traditional methods - they will invariably fail.

    You want to make connections that will come to you for your brand or product? Get to know them first. It's not hard - all you have to do is ask. ;-)

  2. Hey Danny,
    Thanks for the post; glad you liked it! I've just been getting frustrated a lot recently when reading certain blogs. People are forgetting that the social media is not ours... Whilst print and television arguably may have been 'ours' once upon a time when people had no choice but to watch commercials, the social media has always, always, always been about the customer first. If we are lucky, the marketer come in at a distant second.

    I love marketing and I love the social media, but I honestly think that the lines between the two are beginning to become horribly blurred. At this rate, the social media will only comprise marketers all shouting their latest product offerings at one another... I imagine that the customers will all have had the good sense to move onto other things.

    Thanks again for your input, Danny.


  3. As I see it, one of the best things that companies can benefit from Social Media is FEEDBACK. Finally you have the option to truly know what your consumers and specially, the ones who are still NOT your consumers, think about you and your product. You'll have honest and valuable information from the ones who actually matter. I'd like to think that, with that powerful information available, Marketers can listen and understand the market in a better way, offering a better service that suits the demand and not pushing an useless experience to the final consumer.
    And with that, I don't mean that I'm against the "Pitch". I just think the "Spam" model is long gone and PRs should mean Personal Relations instead of Public Relations. Therefore, they will talk about their service/product/company. Not talk anyone into it.
    Great Post Chris!

  4. Thank you for the comment, May.
    The ability to actually hear back from the customer is indeed one of the greatest benefits of the social media. Listening must not be ignored by the organisation; in fact, were I to give an organisation one piece of advice it would invariably be to ensure that they continue to develop their capacity to 'listen'. Although I am still convinced that a presence in the social media is a necessity in the current environment, the ability to listen and to understand the medium is an imperative for ensuring the creation of an appropriate presence. Mindlessly entering, 'shouting' and then leaving a conversation is not appropriate...