I had a customer call me Saturday morning all excited.
"I just got back from the xxxx conference, and the word of the conference was ‘Social Networking’. I want to be able to jump on this social networking thing in full force. I need your help so I can do my marketing on this new platform."
This is where I got scared. My customer all of a sudden knows about this brand ‘new’ marketing platform that he wasn’t leveraging yet. Sounds like an opportunity to me, right? After talking to my customer a bit more, he dove into what he wanted. He essentially wanted me to link his web site into Facebook ("or the Book Face" as he kept referring to it as") and Twitter. What he really wanted was for me to modify his sales engine so that if he posted a new discount or sales item that the engine would automatically post a message on these services letting people know about the sale. A speaker at the conference told him that all he had to do was to get ‘followers’ and that sales would just go up. Apparently the Comcast example was brought up (where customers that contacted Comcast via twitter had an 90% satisfaction rating, rather than the 40% rating they had otherwise).
Now, I don’t expect this guy to just ‘get it’, and that’s why he uses me for consulting — I’m there to help teach him this stuff. What really bothers me is the huge following to monetize sites like twitter, and use it solely as a marketing platform. Although the speaker at this conference was excited about these services, he is doing them, and all of us a big disservice. The reason why many of these sites were created was to evolve from the ad-laden, corporate marketed site that we have become numb to. I’m finding more and more people that are following me on Twitter and Facebook that are ‘social media trainers’, ‘social media managers’, and other titles that are really there just to abuse the system.
Why don’t these people "get it?" Why do these businesses feel that this new ‘medium’ needs to be managed, controlled and marketed to? For those of you who have read the Cluetrain Manifesto (thanks Tom & John for the book!), that previous line should sound familiar.
Social Media is medium for people to connect with people. People already plenty of ways to connect with marketing (Websites, Movies, TV, Email, Phones, Billboards, etc.), but this is supposed to be the genuine, person to person, communication. Social Media is a place where a person can open up, and say or post things that are actually on their mind. Marketing is the exact opposite — a way to convince others to think something about you. To use a previous example, Comcast is not using Twitter as a marketing engine — the marketing is happening as a result of Comcast’s work on the site. Comcast (in particular a few of their employees) are using Twitter in a genuine way — to help customers with person to person communications, and this is helping them. Another company, the Lansing City Pulse, on the other hand, has gone down the marketing route, and has posted nothing but filtered marketed information on their twitter feed. They have been fully lambasted by those on twitter because of it.
I see this move as the same as the move for companies to get on the internet. They moved to the internet because they saw it as a way to get their information online. Of course, almost all of them simply put up an ‘internet brochure’ which didn’t have much more information than their address and phone number. I also see this as a movement as businesses seeing email as a great way to communicate with their customers, and potential customers (spammers).
I told me customer that despite what they heard at the conference, the ‘social media platform’ won’t increase their sales by a measurable amount. However, opening your company to the social media world will connect you to your customers on a personal level, and will with that personal touch that is lost on the internet. Adding a personal touch to any relationship will almost always make it more genuine, authentic, and stronger. Given a strong relationship, well maintained, you will most likely get repeat business, and business recommended from those who do have those relationships.