Earlier this week I summarized my Hide and Speak article series with a wrap-up post outlining four key lessons on social media marketing. The post tried to get companies to realize social media marketing was an ongoing process that requires time, commitment and a passion for your product. What I should have included was the need to see social media marketing as a way to tear down the walls that separate your business from your customers. That wall called "marketing." Thankfully Mack Collier steps up to the plate today with an excellent post on this very topic.
Mack piggybacks off a post by Chris Brogan claiming marketing is not social media and that social media is not marketing. While the two can obviously mix, Chris makes a really valuable point when he writes:
Marketing is a discipline with lots of emphasis on channel thinking, on campaigns, on message shaping, on control and covering all the bases.
Social media is a set of tools that permit regular people access to potential audiences of shared interest. These tools give voice, give preference, give rise to individuality, give flexibility, collaborative opportunity, and a whole lot of other things that don’t resemble traditional marketing the same way gym class felt absolutely nothing like social studies.
Chris goes on to point out the value of social media in the eyes of the masses and to remind marketers of the sanctity of that conversation. After all, no one WANTS to be marketed to, especially not in the midst of conversation with friends and acquaintances.
Mack picks up on this line of thinking and takes it down the path of finding the real value of social media as a marketer. He acknowledges, as do all of us that social media marketing is a marketer's dream environment. After all, what better place to reach a consumer than when they're sitting around talking about the very topic your product addresses?
Ah...but what a short-sighted way to view it. Sure, you may be able to get some extra sales from social media, but direct conversions isn't where the true value of social media lies.
...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.
If you missed it, go back and read this sentence again.
Then the customer sees that the company is listening, so the distrust begins to fade.
THAT is the true value of social media. Unprecedented access to what your customers thinks and feel. To what they like, what they dislike, what they dream of and what they lament. Companies are fearful of engaging their customers in conversation because the customer might say something bad.
I say companies should revel in this. When in the history of marketing have you ever been able to go into people's "living rooms" and hear the conversations they're having with their friends? There's a difference between the angry customer who writes a letter or calls your customer service team to complain and the person who goes home and tells their friends and family about their experience. With the letter or phone call, you may hear about your most egregious errors and have the opportunity to fix them. Unfortunately, when it comes to those personal conversation you fail to hear about the little annoyances that your company could easily solve.
Fixing the major issue may avert a PR crisis, but addressing the annoyances will probably change your entire public image for the better.
Along those very lines, Mack goes a little "Seth Godin" on us and points out the need for social media to serve as a learning medium for businesses.
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.
Maybe it's time companies stop thinking about how to sell more products as a direct results of pushing social media campaigns and start thinking about tapping in to all that consumer opinion. You can sell a few more products right now, or you can massively increase sales by finding the things that will make ALL of your customers happy. Seems like a no brainer to me.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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