Social Media – It’s not just another marketing channel

In recent meetings with BSG Alliance customers, the topic of the next generation of workers consistently generated a high degree of interest – both from a perspective of how to recruit and retain this next generation as well as how to market to them.

In my last meeting, one of the participants asked an engaging question. To paraphrase and protect identities, the question was roughly as follows: “If I have a long standing, stable, and successful brand which has not changed much if at all in its lifetime, what if anything do I need to do going forward in the Next Generation Enterprise world?”

The question generated a good amount productive discussion, and an interesting comment from the group which I felt was not exactly correct, but did not have a good response at the time as to why it was not what I felt was the right response.

The comment was basically that reaching customers in the social media world is just going to be another channel that marketers will have to figure out, just like the shift from print to radio to TV, and so on.

I do not agree with this premise – social media is not just another channel. Flipping through the following powerpoint from Charlene Li at Forrester Research this morning helped to clarify my thoughts. It’s worth looking at Slides #16 through #30 then reading on.

Those that treat social media as just another channel, are doomed to fail in social media marketing, unless they learn and adapt along the way. Charlene goes into some of the reasons and examples in her presentation, mostly from a perspective of how social networks like Facebook and their members behave and operate.

I’d like to add an additional reason. A massive power shift is underway with customers and consumers, powered by Web 2.0 and Social Media. More information is in the hands of customers now than ever before, and customers can now collaborate in unprecedented ways as the costs of collaboration have trended to zero. As such, customers are demanding to be treated differently – not as a marketing channel, but as a person – and have response mechanisms at their disposal to ensure that marketers provide them with what they want. They want experiences. They will give feedback. If they’ve been wronged or are dissatisfied, they will rapidly form a group with shared interests and respond in force globally! If they have a great experience with your brand, they will do the same!

Social Media is not just another marketing channel. The challenge for marketers and brands is greater than figuring out how to take print and radio advertising to TV. The challenge is rethinking how advertising shifts from a one-way message to enabling positive and desired experiences, with Social Media as the enabling platform. Marketers must also understand the experience and outcome their customers desire, and be able to deliver it. Accountability for not doing so comes fast and hard. The spoils of doing so also have exponential returns.

As a reasonably active user of Facebook, the good news for marketers and the case example mentioned above is that I can tell you few companies or brands have figured this out yet, and the Social Networks themselves have not identified how to effectively enable this type of experience-creation for the marketers yet either.

I do expect an inevitable tipping point is near.

^ brian

  • and I generally agree with most of your points.  On the other hand, for me, the most startling part of this Forrester presentation is on slide 6, "14% are non-white". 
    Not exactly a melting pot. 
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  • Scott – true, not yet. It is easy to forget the whole world is not living in social media!

    But at 60 Million users and rapidly growing, plus adding in all of the other non-overlapping users of web 2.0 and social media, it’s a compelling enough target to not ignore. Plus, I believe the trends will suggest that as more non-whites come online in to social media, their underlying behaviors will be fundamentally the same – i.e. engagement and experience driven, rather than to be treated as just another channel. Their needs and desired experience may and likely will be different.

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