Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Social Media = Production of Amateur Ad Agents or Community Members?

Ed Note -- The following is cross posted at a Blog I am beginning about Web 2.0 and marketing that is titled Two Way Street Research and Consultation.

Nothing new to those who market, but marketing is not the same as advertising. Many of us would argue that adverts are a subset of marketing and, well, so much more is involved in communicating your market vision to your prospective and existing clients. But if you have an online conversation with your clients that results in an online video (see Obama Girl) is that an advertisement, is it a conversation, does it matter? And, no, I am not talking about viral marketing. I am really talking about a loud, somewhat public conversation. Take a look at this article on social media and marketing in yesterday's Arizona Republic:
The line between consumer and marketer is getting increasingly blurry thanks to blogs, video-sharing sites and social networks.

These and other "social media" tools not only allow consumers to filter messages coming from companies and their marketers, but also let them create, shape and spread their own messages.

"Consumers and amateurs are really making their place in the (marketing) world as much as ad agencies," said Sheila Kloefkorn, president of the American Marketing Association's Phoenix chapter.

Ok, nothing new here, but let's take a further look...
Companies have been using "viral marketing" for the past several years, creating street armies of citizen marketers who distribute their messages for them.

Now, though, corporations large and small are trying to grab greater control of these tools.

A lot is at stake. Companies that fail, marketing experts warn, will miss out on reaching target audiences and give up what little control they still have over their image.

"Most advertisers have been conditioned for many, many years to totally control their message," said Dan Santy, president of Tempe-based marketing firm Santy. "The Web takes all that control away."

Using social-media tools at least gives firms a way to direct where their messages go.

Ok, this is an extension then of directing messages to an audience. But here is the key: you need to get them engaged in with what you do and make your self meaningful:
Cynthia Drasler, the founder of Organic Excellence, said she used to become frustrated as a guest on radio shows because she was never fully able to explain why she felt it was important for people to use chemical-free personal-care products.

So she decided to take matters into her own hands by starting her own online radio show in May 2006.

The show, Chemical Free Living, airs once a week on an Internet radio station at Listeners can download podcasts of the shows after they air.

On the show, Drasler discusses topics that interest her target customers, and not necessarily Organic Excellence's products.

Even though she does not promote her products during the show, she said the show is helpful in building a brand.

"By having a weekly radio show and having certain shows where I do all the talking for the whole hour, people get to know me," Drasler said. "I become a real person to them, and I think when people know you and if they get to like you, then they go and pay attention to what you're saying."

Crafting honest messages is one key to successfully using social-media tools to shape marketing content, said Francine Hardaway, a local business consultant who helped form the Phoenix chapter of the Social Media Club.

The national organization has branches in cities around the country where members meet to discuss how blogs, podcasts and social networking can affect business.

"I don't think any consultant should ever sell a blog as a way to boost sales," Hardaway said. "It's really a way to brand you're company. It's a way to give out information. It's a way to get feedback from your customers and your suppliers" [emphasis mine].
Hardaway gets it: It's about making yourself meaningful. Driving sales is hard under all circumstances and many external factors affect this. Meaning creation, though, is different. Honestly, we need to pay more attention to meaning making and this involves a number of community-oriented actions and engagement. It is the "community" that, then, is the issue at hand and it is one that is intriguing... more on it later.

1 comment:

4MySales said...

It's interesting that you point out control as one of the components that is given up in a viral online initiative. That may be why large organizations are having such a difficult time adopting these technologies.