Recently I’ve had conversations with at least two executives high up within large interactive shops. In both cases, neither exec felt that social marketing was of much interest. “We’re not seeing much success in advertising on social networks,” stated one. “We just don’t feel there’s much point in being in the social space,” said the other. A third exec stated, “social media is something we recommend to our clients primarily for inbound links and search engine optimization.”

My forehead is purple from my pounding it on the table.

It’s So Not About You

Social Marketing represents a massive opportunity for marketers: not to create more inbound links, and not to push your message to the places where people congregate online, but to package and demonstrate relevance and value amongst consumers and to leverage their trust and connections as advocates of your offering.

In a nutshell, our role as marketers is to connect our markets to our company’s/client’s value. As consumers are ever more empowered to search for what they desire and bypass marketing efforts, traditional push techniques become just so much more noise. Consumers simply do not NEED marketing!

Compounding this issue is the growing trend in which internal pressures (lead-gen goals, quarterly revenue targets, conversion targets, etc.) lead us to place our own goals over those of our customers. When KFC buys the rights to turn off fast-forwarding on TiVos, when RyanAir sells overhead bin space for advertising, when CapitalOne bombards consumers with credit card offers until they cave, when flashing LED billboards try to distract you as you drive – they each demonstrate marketers putting our own goals before those of our intended converts.

Social channels, on the other hand, offer the ability to leverage existing peer affinity and recommendation to spread value in the context of trust. And when content and communications are created with consumer value in mind, rather than self-promotion or self-interest, they will be perceived less as unwanted, shotgunned intrusions and more as valuable benefits.

Advertisers showing up on social networks are like Amway salesmen showing up at a neighborhood cocktail party: no one wants them there – it’s not the right context in which to sell. It’s unwanted push in a pull venue.

Conversely, many companies are jumping on the bandwagon in smart ways – Nike, UPS, Starbucks, H&R Block, and Comcast – leveraging social tools to improve perception and engagement.

In my opinion, the more quickly marketers realize the shift of power to the consumer, the increasing irrelevance of push, and the increasing importance of customer advocacy and engagement, the more quickly we’ll again be able to reconnect our company’s value to them. This is a viewpoint that has generated widely varying opinions from other marketers – some who think me an asshole for supposedly “dissing” their chosen professions, many who feel that social media is a fad and that better segmentation/targeting, more clever promotional ideas and better/funnier/more clever copy are the answers to increasingly distracted/disinterested audiences.

I could not disagree more.

A central challenge facing the marketing profession is the fact that we are trained, motivated and compensated based upon our efficacy at Push. Until we recognize that Push is an annoying, outdated tactic, until we find a way to promote value rather than self-interest, we will continue to watch marketing effectiveness drop across the board.

And no amount of clever copy will make advertising shoved in our face any less intrusive.

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