The Social Conversation…effective marketing communication or not?

Marketers around the globe and the companies they serve are struggling to come to grips with social media. No surprise!…so are the rest of us.

Most of the burning questions revolve around whether one should consider it as a marketing/advertising media? If so what will it return in terms of increased revenues or market share etc? and How does one engage effectively in this new media?

These are really good questions. The problem is there seems to be a shortage of “Really Good Answers”

Here are mine.

The short answers;

1. Engage in social marketing very cautiously and keep your nose clean, social media can bite…hard. If you can’t deliver what you promise or imply, you’re dead in the water… at twice the speed of sound. Smart move is to hire people who understand it end to end. There are some out there… look for them, Radian6 springs to mind.

2. Probably not much beyond top of mind awareness.

3. See answer number 1. and don’t interrupt me, to try to sell me anything. If you can’t add real value (my definition not yours) to my life be quiet. If you can? Then do so, and maybe at some time or other I’ll come to you, and see if you’ve got something I want, or need, or that you can help me with.

The longer more fun answers:

In the early days social media was great it was the on-line equivalent of sitting in your favourite restaurant meeting interesting new people and chatting about interesting things. It was a forum for  people to swap information, resources, gossip and have a good chin wag.

I think the social interaction is disappearing at an alarming rate. Why?  Simply put… the conversation is being overtaken by relentless, solicitations of un-requested information about things we just aren’t interested in.

Being nagged to death by a constant barrage of intrusive and repetitive advertising…goes stale faster than a slice of fresh bread left out in the noonday sun.

It’s little wonder that email campaigns are failing…not because of poor positioning, market segmentation, distribution or list management, poor copy writing, or design. Not even because the offer is valueless or unwanted..simply because the vast majority are left unopened.

Who can be bothered sifting through a daily deluge of questionable emails from people and organizations we don’t know?…So when too many unknown bold entries on our email dashboards accumulate, we bin them, Yup! the whole bang shoot… the good the bad and the ugly, click ,click, click, bye bye!

The last campaign I ran on face book had a click through rate of 0.19% hardly stellar results (0.19% of 500,000, highly targeted impressions over 2 weeks… do the maths).

Why?

Truthfully!… because people don’t want to be confronted by advertising and certainly not in a conversational setting. They resent it. They’re tired of it.

It’s like attending a dinner party and in the midst of a fascinating and engaging conversation, one of the guest keeps interrupting with: “Say did I tell you about my really great real estate/ insurance/travel /agency… Boy are we hot…you gotta come and see me. I can do a great deal for you, blah, blah, blah.

The first time it happens everyone tries to look interested, the second time they try to ignore him, the third time his date turns to him and says: “Oh For God’s Sake Jim, Shut the F&*K Up!”

I’m not sure why (though I could speculate for hours. ) on-line advertising seems more intrusive than traditional media, such as print, or TV, or radio? It just is!

Linked-in already has a number of underground groups that you have to apply to join. They have strict membership rules that you’re expected to adhere to, in particular; No selling, no marketing, no frivolous connection requests, no directing people to your blog etc. Break the rule you’re out. I think these type of groups are on the rise, many already enjoy rosters in the 10s of thousands.

Not much advertising opportunity there.

These groups are exclusively for like-minded people to engage in meaningful conversation.

Hang on!…We’re back to square one.

Here’s the downward spiral of social media advertising as I see it.

1.A social platform gets launched and where like-minded people can meet and engage in meaningful conversations

2.Because it’s informative and valuable It develops and grows around a core membership to a sizeable number of say 500K+

3.The owners need to get paid (fair enough… they do!)

4.They sell their readership/membership to advertisers ( not the list, just the audience opportunity) when it gets big enough

5.The low budget (ma and pa companies) and early adopter organizations jump in

6.The owners are really on a roll (the golden goose has landed) and shift their focus to advertising revenues

7.The people at Pepsi begin to wonder if Coke is going to jump in (the people at Coke are wondering the same thing about Pepsi)

8.The big guns join the fray trying to find a way to engage in the conversation (without letting on that they want you to actually buy something?)

9.The advertisers now dominate the conversation, so the core membership/readership moves to another table.

10.Repeat steps 1 -9

So now what?

There’s some worthwhile and useful information here.

1.Social media is important…the number of people willing to take part makes it obvious

2.Media owners cannot possibly run organizations of this size as a one-man-band they need to generate a profit and pay their costs. No one will do this for free. So maybe we need to look at subscriptions as way to keep them up and running. Then owners can focus on adding value.

3.If Big business wants to engage? Fine if they truly have something of value to add (keeping in mind that, value is defined by the membership collectively and individually) then they will be welcomed, if not… let them start their own platforms and they will have to work to gain credibility to grow an audience, one way might be to host a free platform, or sponsor an entire platform, at least then subscribers know what to expect.

I could never figure out why companies like Ford or Coke or Nike didn’t have their own TV channels? We have Hallmark, Nat Geographic, Disney? Nike Sports Network seems kind of obvious…sorry wandering off here.

These are a few of my simple ideas I’m sure people who are far more clever than me can come up with any number of workable solutions.

Bottom Line: Whatever competitive advantage social media may have to offer is on the wane… if indeed there ever was any. But then I didn’t think people would buy books on-line. 🙂

Maybe you have some good ideas or thoughts?

Aside:( The purpose of this blog is to engage in  a conversation (see tag line). I will never sell or try to sell anything to anyone from this blog. I get no payment or commission’s of any kind from anyone. if I happen to mention particular brands or make suggestions it is solely to offer up information that I think might be interesting or useful…I have no intention of changing that policy)

Xross that Line

Cheers Steven.

Photo Credits: Bill Jablonski: www.puppetgov.com

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