Social Marketing Sucks. Focus Your Humans on Existing Customers.

My good friend, Perry Maughmer, brought this article from FastCompany to my attention today.  Seems like everyone is writing their predictions for 2010 this week.  Here’s an excerpt that caught my attention:

“Social marketing progresses on the hype cycle. Marketers will realize that social marketing is not free, and it is not a panacea for reduced budgets. The human cost associated with social marketing is significant when you consider the hours spent blogging, tweeting, and responding to online content. The current inability to understand the bottom line contribution of social marketing the business will force marketers to look at social marketing with an increasingly analytic view.”

And this one…

“Marketers’ attempts to reach consumers via popular social tools like Facebook and Twitter will improve and will become less obtrusive. Consumer backlash to annoying product updates and thinly veiled ads will cause marketers to become more savvy. Even if consumers joined a company’s fan club to get a discount coupon, they don’t really want to be “friends” with clothing stores or hardware outlets.”

I completely agree with these predictions.

Social media is in no way free.  It takes a process to develop a solid strategy, which we charge for at Social Business Strategies (SBS site coming soon).  It takes tools that sometimes cost money.  And most importantly, it takes people behind the tools to make them work.  Unfortunately, people don’t usually work for free.  We all have to eat, right?

Likewise, people talk to people, and want to be friends with people on social media.  Companies are made up of people.  I would stay focused on leveraging that to your benefit.

Social Marketing Sucks
The use of the term “social marketing” drives me nuts.  Marketers have been to trained to think in terms of push.  They stay focused on crafting the right messages, speaking in brand, and then pushing those messages to the right audiences in the marketplace.  It’s a mentality that’s rooted in establishing and maintaining control.  Except that it doesn’t work as well as it used to.

Control is an illusion.  The social web is anything but a controlled medium.  Humans don’t speak brand; they translate brand-delivered messages into their own vernacular and tell their friends and family.  Humans also tend to get excited when someone goes above and beyond expectations to deliver a great customer experience, or a good deal.  Most of the time, we humans tell our friends about a great experience.  Just look at what Zappos did in 2009 for an example of that approach and the ROI of really caring for your customers.

Now consider this: Why do people voice complaints against brands using things like Facebook and Twitter?  Are they “socially marketing” their own opinions or are they looking for someone to listen and help them with a problem?  Look at AT&T’s Facebook Fan Page now.  I give them serious props for some of the recent changes they’ve made since I wrote my letter to AT&T’s page admin.  Notice that the focus has changed from promotions and advertisements to really making it easy for their customers to get help.  Good change of strategy, in my opinion.

My 3 Predictions for 2010

  1. Brands that stop trying to focus on “social marketing” and start focusing on “social customer service” will win.
  2. Brands that use social technology to really communicate with their customers will focus on customer retention.  In turn, they will see the benefit of their customers marketing for them.  Marketing on the social web will be a byproduct of their efforts.
  3. Measuring ROI will be focused on the people who operate social media tools for a brand’s sake, and not on the tools themselves.  To do this, brands will focus their investment in building the right teams of people to operate the technology.

What’s your take?  Do you disagree?  Did I miss anything?

  • http://www.451heat.com/ @ajgerritson

    Hey Nate,

    You have some great points here. I think that companies that use the social media tools and platforms to humanize their brands through great customer service will definitely shine in 2010. Last year companies definitely realized that social media has an associated cost (time) and many of the smart ones now realize that any effort should be directly tied to accomplishing a business objective (e.g. better customer service/relationships, recruiting, decreased operational costs, etc.).

    One last thing – I agree with you that the social web is “anything but a controlled medium” but I also believe that because of its democratic nature it is an amazing channel for influencing behavior.

  • http://www.451heat.com @ajgerritson

    Hey Nate,

    You have some great points here. I think that companies that use the social media tools and platforms to humanize their brands through great customer service will definitely shine in 2010. Last year companies definitely realized that social media has an associated cost (time) and many of the smart ones now realize that any effort should be directly tied to accomplishing a business objective (e.g. better customer service/relationships, recruiting, decreased operational costs, etc.).

    One last thing – I agree with you that the social web is “anything but a controlled medium” but I also believe that because of its democratic nature it is an amazing channel for influencing behavior.

  • http://nateriggs.com/ Nate Riggs

    That’s a great point A.J., and thanks for chiming in. The power has always been in crowds, and in 2009, the technology made big leaps to enable people to do more in terms of interactions and voicing ideas, opinions and just about anything. It will be interesting to see who else in 2010 (people brands) will emerge as leaders of influence.

  • http://nateriggs.com Nate Riggs

    That’s a great point A.J., and thanks for chiming in. The power has always been in crowds, and in 2009, the technology made big leaps to enable people to do more in terms of interactions and voicing ideas, opinions and just about anything. It will be interesting to see who else in 2010 (people brands) will emerge as leaders of influence.