Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Social Media Are NOT Ripe for Injecting Advertising/Marketing Into Conversations

Comment on Lon Safko's article on FastCompany.com: The 10 Commandments of Social Media

Lon, please excuse my use of a rude acronym, but WTF?!?

I have to ask you, if you take off your "I've bet the farm on 'social marketing' being my personal gold mine" hat, what happens when the novelty/newness factor wears off Twitter, blogging and Facebook (the older demo has already left the latter) and everyone realizes that these technological "Pet Rocks" are just a colossal waste of time? Yes, the geeks, teens and narcissist/celebrity-wannabes are all over them right now, but geeks move on, teens grow up (and have low disposable incomes) and the narcissists rush to wherever the audience has moved. I understand that you have to take a shot at fame and fortune while the wave is cresting, but your 'commandments' seems a tad self-serving!

Thinking strategically, long-term, what is the real value of investing a HUGE amount of time and energy following your 'commandments'? Sure, at the moment my product might catch a bit of buzz, but when you really apply your analytical skills to so-called 'social media', is attempting to inject your company or product/brand into people's conversations via a blizzard of non-stop blah, blah, blah REALLY something that consumers want? (Remember, the consumer is in charge now and what they are shouting is that they NEVER wanted 'push marketing'). Isn't 'push marketing' exactly what you're advocating? Isn't it really a lot like interrupting a private phone call between two people with an ad?

Certainly, from a PR standpoint (NOT a marketing standpoint, per se) we all have to respond quickly to issues about our company or brand that come up in social conversations, but what you are suggesting is to shift efforts from legitimate marketing activities and spend a HUGE amount of effort on trying to control/guide consumers' conversations. There is a subtle, but important, still relevant distinction between PR and marketing.  I have to agree with Mike Weiner's comment and the Maccabee Group's version of the '10 Commandments' of social media marketing (note that they are a PR firm!), they have a far less intrusive take on how to participate in conversations online:

Yes, innovation is a 'commandment', but I'd suggest that ANY 'medium' carrying the banner of 'social' is, by its nature, not an arena for advertising. Advertise in new media, by all means. Advertise in display ads on Facebook. Create free apps that both add value and are relevant to your product or service. Market your products in ways that people actually appreciate, as in face-to-face demos and the conversations that take place during the demos, but trying to elbow your message into the midst of people socializing is only going to be seen as an unwelcome intrusion and yet another example of overzealous marketers killing a golden goose.

There are 1,000 other media out there, both new and old, to carry marketing messages. The real value of 'social' is research and listening, not interjecting advertising. When you read all the 'best-in-class' advice being offered up about how brands can benefit from 'social media' involvement today, it is all speaking to PR efforts and benefits, NOT marketing.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but then this is just one guy's opinion!

1 comment:

  1. Kevin -

    Your post certainly resonated with me. It seems that everyone is jumping on the social media bandwagon without much thought to the overall marketing objectives/strategy. In a time when consumers can choose to ignore marketing efforts (TiVo and satellite radio come to mind), the only way you can get their attention is to engage directly with them carefully. Give them something they can use, behind the scenes access, and new information so that they can become enthusiastic and advocates for your brand.

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