The biggest problem with social business

The biggest thing that’s wrong with social media marketing is consumers. They simply don’t understand that marketing is a fairly one-sided effort.

  • You decide what the company, product, brand message is.
  • You decide which avenues you’re going to use in contacting them; they’re supposed to repeat that message (without change) to friends, family.
  • They’re supposed to buy the product or service in the store or online.
  • They’re supposed to extol the features, benefits of the product/service to all of their “friends.”
  • The cycle is supposed to repeat.

Who knew consumers would suddenly want/expect to interact– not with the company but with real people just as they do with others in the social media arena.

Only a few forward-looking, tuned-in marketing people recognized that businesses were going to be led down a path they couldn’t retreat from.

But the consumer liked the idea and pressed forward, spending more and more time on social media:

  • They pressed to connect and share personal and contextual information.
  • They became their own media channels publishing thoughts, ideas, images, videos and more.
  • They created and deposited volumes of information and data about themselves.
  • They posted – in text, photos, video – what they needed, wanted from companies, products, services.

They expected companies and marketing people to listen to them and have conversations like real people. But being personable/personal and making a true connection with the consumer isn’t what the automated marketing/sales team wants.

People, Not Stats

Instead, they’ll:

  • Make a graph of their Twitter followers
  • Itemize their Facebook likes
  • Develop pie-charts on their customer service response speed
  • Produce spreadsheets on how often their messages were shared, liked, retweeted
  • Highlight all the favorable customer feedback they received

More than Grades – Customer contacts and relationships go beyond pass/fail grades during these early stages because analytical tools are only beginning to address the “soft” information beyond Like and Tweet/ReTweet. Evaluating and ranking relationships is always difficult.

If the organization doesn’t live, breath, promote/practice their social media marketing internally, it’s just another one of your corporate, product marketing/communications tools.

And since it may be one that gets in the way of “real work,” you may even outsource it to someone who specializes in community management.

It’s all about spitting out stuff to get responses, likes.

There’s no follow-up, no next step, no business intent; it’s talking at people and filling out the report card that there was a great interaction.

That’s not a connection … that’s regular one-way communication with a really neat name!

It’s not that companies and product/brand managers don’t care, they’re pretty sure a close connection/interaction with customers is important now and even more important in the future.

Rapid Growth – Companies are increasingly using social media for marketing activities; and are continuing to refine them beyond push marketing to two-way communications. Ultimately, the consumer will take the lead in the activity as organizations understand the importance of listening, compared to talking/pitching.

Even as companies commit to major social media budgets, the objectives, measurements and results are often difficult to clarify and determine.

Social Investment

According to a recent Optus Future of Business report, businesses intend to expand and refine their social media activities over the next three to five years because it will improve their relationships.

Important Goals – While progress in achieving the objectives is often difficult to measure, companies understand the importance of engaging and maintaining the customer relationship in social media marketing. But many of the measures such as quality and quantity of leads/website visits can be very precisely measured to fine tune programs to meet the target market’s wants/needs.

The big hurdle for companies and their brands/products is that consumers view social media as a private/personal communications vehicle between friends, family and peers, not businesses.

Way too many companies see social media as an inexpensive marketing tool and consumers are only slowly warming to the idea of company engagement on “their” turf.

As a result, social media marketing has to be part of a highly integrated program that includes interactive campaigns such as those carried out by Coke, Zappos, Cisco and Dell. Because their programs are outward looking in, these firms are being followed and recommended among people in their communities, circles.

Unfortunately, most organizations waste their time, money and effort by using conventional push social media communications.

Trust Factor – In Forrester’s ongoing social media research, they’ve found that consumers place greater value and credibility in the content and information they can select online, rather than the material/information that is pushed at them.

In its digital marketing report, Forrester found that while U.S. and Europeans reacted differently to various online messages, typical push marketing/communications efforts had almost no credibility.  

The report validates that repurposed marketing/communications activities won’t gain the social media following/relationship that everyone says they are working to achieve.


The importance of developing strong one-on-one relationships becomes apparent when you see that recommendations from friends and family provide the most effective social media marketing.

Professional and consumer reviews are also at the top of the most credible social media communications list.

Renewed Interest, Investment – Companies have taken renewed interest in one of their oldest communications tools (the website) to beef it up and enhance it so it compares very favorably with the look and feel of many social media sites. Early flat website design is being replaced by inviting landing pages and continuously updated entertaining/informative video and animated company, product, brand information that draws customers back and keeps them involved/interested.

Gartner’s recent marketing investment report found firms were surprisingly investing more in  their corporate web site, indicating that corporate managers are “optimistic but uncertain” about aggressive social media marketing .

Web site’s Value

Gartner’s study pointed out that company Web sites should be given the same attention, look and feel in their landing pages and should provide compelling content and brand/product representation to keep pace with Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other social media sites.

Gartner feels that even as organizations understand that they must develop and nurture true consumer communications, the Web site will continue to be the underpinning of the organization’s social media efforts – internal and external.

The important thing to remember is that social media is based on communications and it is effective only as long as the consumer allows it to be.

The consumer owns an organization’s ability to market to them through the social media channels.

Social media is a quid pro quo communications opportunity.

When company social media experts quit listening and silo the activity, rather than spreading it throughout the organization, consumers will quit talking, quit caring, quit buying.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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