(Photo provided by Twitter)
Social Marketing and social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook, are all the rage among a growing number of businesses. From mom and pop shops to the largest international corporations, using a social media platform to "join the conversation" and market products and services, is fast becoming the marketing venue of choice.
Whether or not you have chosen to participate for your business, chances are that the "conversation" has started to happen about you.
The question is, how long are you going to wait to join in?
Many businesses have found themselves pulled into the fray by fans and detractors alike, then discovered they were not prepared for this avenue of marketing when they attempted to enter. Others jumped in without a plan or understanding of the medium, and soon paid a price for that lack of understanding.
Lack of understanding is a bad way to start
As increasingly businesses and corporations advertise for employees to take on their social marketing operations, they mistakenly search for candidates with long backgrounds in the medium. Job postings seek "five or more years experience in social media" along with a lengthy background (5 or more years) in the marketing field.
The problem with these requirements lies in the basic idea of social media; it hasn't been around that long.
Two of the top three most prominent and widely known of the social media forums are Facebook and Twitter. Facebook was a college-only entity in 2004, and it wasn't until 2007 that it was hosting over 50 million active users. According to the Facebook website, they currently have more than 250 million active users worldwide, and as of January 2009, was ranked as the most used social network.
Twitter was created in 2006, and as of February 2009 was ranked as the third most used social network based on a count of 6 million unique monthly visitors, as reported on Wikipedia.
For less than three years, businesses have had the option of using social media as a marketing tool. While "word-of-mouth" marketing has been around for a longer period of time, social media marketing and its unique make-up is less than three years old.
One can hardly search for an "experienced" employee, let alone one with more years of experience than the field has been around, to take the reigns of a social media marketing program. Employers must understand that many, if not most "experienced" potential social medial employees will simply be those who've been participating personally in the social media craze.
And while there are an increasing number of people developing social media marketing programs, and in turn developing expertise, they too have less than three years, often "dramatically less" than three years experience in social media marketing.
Along with the idea of a long length of experience in their potential employees, some employers even want proof that social media marketing works.
While long-term research is, based on length of the industry, at present impossible, there is a growing body of evidence that social media has helped participating companies in their marketing efforts, and in turn, in growing the bottom-line.
When social media marketing is done right.
Social Media is its own beast
Many business owners, corporate decision makers, and even those within the marketing field have not yet accepted the idea that marketing and social media marketing do not inherently go hand-in-hand.
At least not without understanding the unique nature of each, and how they can work together.
Additionally, many of those with backgrounds in marketing are finding that the very ideas of marketing and social marketing are at odds. Where marketing has traditionally been the creation of a message and then spreading of it in a controlled manner, social media is the very opposite.
In social media, the users are the ones creating and sharing the message, their way, in their time.
Participating in social media means people are sharing their honest, personal opinions about a product, company or service. They are telling people what they think, their experiences, and how they feel about a product, company or service.
This very idea, let alone the practice of it, terrifies many management types. That people are telling the truth about their products, company or service is simply appalling. That people are allowed to share this information just cannot be happening.
Then add in the idea that the audience can be a few dozen people to literally millions around the world, and they can't do anything to stop it, it's enough to send any CEO or director into a fit of rage.
Can you imagine the control issues and the angry outbursts in conference rooms around the world?
Yet, that is what social media is all about. People talking to each other. And that conversation includes products, companies or services.
With only a one-sided-view, certainly this type of situation can get out of control for a business or company.
But, it can also be used to create a dialog, fix a product, company or service, and help them grow, and become more successful.
If you understand the conversation is going to happen, and allow it, be sure to participate in it with honesty, integrity, and with an open mind.
So, why does the social media audience get mad?
Often, the participation of the company or corporation being discussed has angered the participating audience.
Why? And why do they fight back in often disastrous ways for their company?
Lack of respect.
The idea that people are out there talking about their product, company or service, companies and corporations are jumping in to defend themselves, rather than hear what is being said, and trying to fix it.
The traditional methodology, that if someone gets mad at you, you either ignore them since the others won't hear it, or you make some sort of amends, but don't really fix anything, is not going to continue to work.
So, companies that work to hold onto long-held ideologies and methods of "dealing" with the public are finding themselves making grave mistakes. And rather than take a step back, they get mad and try to "fix" things or "control" the conversations.
Yet, by the simple nature of what is occurring, they cannot do either.
Without understanding the platform, companies and corporations are making themselves even bigger enemies of the audience, and proving that they don't listen to their customers, but are instead trying to further control them.
A simple lack of respect.
Business as usual has changed, and Corporate America, along with those who have bought into its traditions and traditions of marketing, need to change. Or get left behind.
You cannot control Social Media.
Some have tried. They have failed.
You can participate, you can join the conversation. Yet, only if you respect it, and participate as one of "them", not yourself trying to make "them" understand what you want.
The simple version is this
Traditional marketing will not work. You must respect this fact, and join the conversation with respect for those who are talking, and respect for what they are saying. If you can do that, you've got a good chance to make social media marketing a positive element of your marketing plan. And see a positive outcome as a result.
If you continue to try and control what people are saying, you will fail.
We will continue to talk about this in this column, and see what people and companies who are using social media marketing are doing with it. Please come back again and join us as we talk about how to use social media marketing within your business.
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