Thursday, December 20, 2007

Social Media and Marketing - Cousins, Not Twins

Chris Brogan has a good post up about why social media is not a form of marketing:

Here’s where I’m going with this: marketers trying to come into social media and rapidly become versed in the tools and believe what they’re doing is social media, are probably doomed to a lot of pain and disappointment along the way. Marketers who come into social media and feel that these tools will deliver the same kinds of clean stats and clear cut wins and campaign thinking overall are doomed as well.

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.

Marketers have tools. They understand what they do very well. They understand lead acquisition, and brand strategy, and all kinds of things that the folks who use social media tools could really do to understand before knocking.

The other day I wrote about how Twitter is often used in ways that may be useful, but that take it outside the realm of social media - because when you use it to broadcast, it's not longer social, it's just a medium. That's something for marketers to think about as they wrap their arms around any social medium.

It all comes back, I think, to things Seth Godin was saying a long time ago about interruption marketing versus permission marketing. We marketers have an astonishing ability to turn everything into interruption; whether it's email campaigns that don't bother with personalization and - the ultimate email crime, in my view - deliver messages to which the user can't reply, or using YouTube to blast something out without paying attention to what viewers are saying, to using Twitter as a handy way to get ads to someone's SMS mailbox.

There's no question that social media are useful marketing tools. The challenge, of course, is using them as social media.

When you have a hammer, every problem is a nail; when you're a marketer, sometimes every problem is sneaking a message in front of an eyeball. From the user point of view, the most successful social media are likely to be those that let users take unwanted nails and jab them back into the marketer's eyeball. Those that turn into marketing vehicles (hi, Facebook!) are likely to be abandoned by users.

Here's the challenge for savvy 21st century marketers, or those that want to be them: how do you market in that environment?


Mary Schmidt said...

I'm going to wade in here - and disagree with the definition of marketing.

Marketing is about effective communications. Marketing is everyhing you do. Social media, schmedia. How can we effectively communicate our value to our market? How do we back up our words with actions, consistently?

Whatever the buzzy term of the day - social media, word-of-mouth, comes down to people talking to people.

The problem comes when old-style marketers try to somehow "adopt" the "new" social media thing. We can't yell at people (old push-style advertising) any more. They're not listening. And so on.

Chris Brogan said...

Hi Mary--

Without sounding like a semantics idiot (because I'm an idiot, but a different kind altogether):

I agree completely with a lot of your sentiments.

Marketing as a discipline, as a profession, is about driving sales or adoption or another metric of the same nature, right?

I agree that the act of marketing is about great communication, singular. Meaning the act of two or more people exchanging information. What I see as the major difference between the traditional practice of marketing and the less formal practice of people using the tools we're calling social media tools, is that social media types (and you're right that it's a stupid word, so we could all call it Rubics Cubers and I'd be fine) are interested in the give-and-take around the communication.

Your last three sentences are the core of what I think is my point. Marketing as a profession needs to consider a new method of communicating, and for that, rubics cube tools (teehee) are potentially something to consider, if used in the mindset of those rubics cubes practitioners, and not the oldschool method.

Do we agree?

Mike said...

Interesting posts. I love the "getting a message in front of an eyeball" line. That IS, right or wrong, the first goal of a marketer. If they never notice you, there's no chance for a sale OR a dialogue. I teach college classes, and I've learned that those sought-after college-aged people are not as "anti" marketing as we think they are. They simply resent the abrasive, ham-fisted tactics that have been traditionally used. (Even more so when that type of thing invades sanctums they think of as "theirs" like Facebook, etc.)

I think the real secret lies in realizing that the end goal is not "message delivered" as much as it is "relationship established." Perhaps our media people should add a third component to "Reach" and "Frequency." "Receptivity" would add the dimension of how "welcome" the intrusion--and in this case, even the content of each message--would be. A garish banner on a Facebook page? That gets a "1".A witty comment on a bar napkin? Maybe a "9" if it's really good. A system like this would be a constant reminder to all of us that nothing happens until they like you.