At a business networking event, I met a marketing representative from one of those private fly-by-night schools. I’m not a fan of the institution (hence I’m not naming names), but they were in the middle of a fantastic marketing campaign. I told the woman how impressed I was. Her reaction surprised me. She asked,
“What do you like about the campaign?”
This is key. I made a comment about her work. She immediately turned the discussion to me and how I, the potential consumer, relate to the brand.
She engaged me. This is demonstrative of what Social Media is doing for marketing today.
Social Media asks the consumer, “What do you think?” Publically.
In traditional marketing, a company or nonprofit establishes a brand and then representatives spread the espoused message. The message is what the company says it is. No discussion.
Social Media provides a space in which a company must engage their constituency – customers, donors, clients, patients, community members, legislators, etc. It shifts marketing activity from the “preaching”
of a pre-established message to a public dialogue. Yes, there is still the traditional branding in the sense of a logo and messaging; however, the goal is not to deliver a brand sermon. The goal is to engage in conversation and to be in relationship with your constituents.
Relationships require work. My colleague says, “Relationships are not 50/50 but 100/100.” You have to be willing to hear what the other person has to say. . . . Proceed with caution.
When you invite the public into a relationship on Social Media, you are holding perhaps the most public forum possible. An online discussion is available to the entire world. It is not limited to the number of people that can fit in a gymnasium. It is not limited to the speakers officially on the agenda. It is not bound by the same relationship dynamics we honor when meeting in person (handshakes, meeting agendas, subtle throat coughing, etc.). It requires an entirely new set of rules.
This can be very unnerving, especially for those trained in marketing many years ago. This definitely isn’t Kansas.
As you can imagine, there are challenges and major risks associated with social media. Here are just a couple:
- Negative feedback
- Difficulty starting a discussion
- Difficulty facilitating a conversation when it turns hostile or deals with difficult subjects
- Privacy issues for all parties
These challenges aren’t insurmountable. In fact, some are tremendous opportunities.
I said earlier that the consumer was in charge. That isn’t entirely true. Nonprofits and small businesses have a tremendous opportunity to start and shape the discussion. Here are just a few of the tactics used:
- Sharing a message and asking followers to repost or retweet
- Creating an event and ask followers to invite others
- Starting a discussion online
- Asking for feedback
- Providing useful information or shocking statistics
- Hosting a contest where people have to create content such as a video, photo caption or short essay
Traditional marketing worked for many years. It is one of the reasons large companies like CocaCola or nonprofits such as St. Jude’s were able to grow. Today, marketing is different. Consumers want to engage. They want to feel like they are a part-of, and they want to help in the myriad of ways possible via Social Media. Marketing must both allow for and shape that interaction.
It is a relationship and it takes work. Are you ready?
Question for readers: What has been the biggest surprise for you as you begin to use social media for business?
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