A new blogger friend of mine forwarded this post, One Year of Social Media Spinning, written by MediaPost blogger Joe Marchese. The first paragraph contains the phrase "social media advertising." Excuse me, but isn't that an oxymoron?
The core philosophy of the social media movement revolves around the notion that people want to connect with each other for the purposes of interaction and conversation. Am I right? Advertising, on the other hand, has little to do with carrying on a conversation and much to do with one-way communication (often communication that's interruptive and unwelcome).
Social media advertising, social media marketing, what's the diff?
Considering that people aren't connecting on Facebook, MySpace, and other SocNets for the purpose of getting pitched to, maybe there is little difference. Maybe both are merely evil twin sisters or insidious interlopers. Maybe those of us attempting to use social media for marketing/advertising purposes should be ashamed of ourselves, pack our bags and just go home.
In the spirit of the Cluetrain, which says "markets are conversations," I'd like to think our motives are purer, that we really do want to talk to people at a human level in honest, authentic, genuine tones; that we really do want to get to know our customers and build a relationship founded on trust. (Or, maybe, I'm living in some Dave Winer-inspired state of Nirvana where "perfectly targeted advertising is just information.")
Joining the conversation, can we or can't we?
I've been enjoying Joseph Jaffe's excellent book, Join the Conversation. In it he asks whether brands can participate in social media or be part of the conversation.
He states forthrightly that 90% of advertising is crap (and what of the other 10%?) and that we as marketers have to get out of the communication business and into the conversation business. Jaffe asserts that, while marketing and conversation are oil and water today, they have the potential to become very willing bedfellows.
There are those who suggest your business can benefit from social media RIGHT NOW and, frankly, I'm apt to agree, at least to the extent where my own experience in business blogging has bearing on the subject. It showed me that honest efforts to provide useful information to my target audience without shilling for my company at the same time, was enough to garner more business than I could handle.
But, that was then, this is now.
Will the same hold true in the social media spectrum beyond blogs? Perhaps Jaffe's book answers that question succinctly. (I don't know yet... haven't gotten that far.) Facebook's Social Ads campaign is certainly a daring experiment, though I think at this point, that's all it is. and there is already a backlash.
"The best referrals come from people who know you have a particular need or are looking for something. They usually come out of a conversation," says the TechCrunch post to which I just linked. To think I'll begin receiving scores of unwanted product recommendations causes me the have the same kind of nauseous reaction I felt in the days when email spam became pervasive.
But, Paul, you still haven't answered the question. Is it an oxymoron or not?
I admit, I'm rambling. It's obvious that it's a question I'm still wresting with. But, heck, that's one of the reasons I started this blog, as a venue for sorting this stuff out...that, and learning social media's folkways and mores.
These are the conclusions I can draw at the moment...
- The consumer doesn't want to be pitched, whether that pitch comes from marketers, advertisers or even well-meaning friends
- Each consumer has a name, and we need to know what it is; that portends the building of relationships
- Relationships can only be built as we get know one another
- The only way to really get to know one another is through meaningful interaction; we have to talk to each other
- As we get to know one another, we can learn to trust each another
- Out of trust, a business relationship can be born
All of that sounds like it could take a long time. Maybe so, maybe not. It depends on the amount of credibility a consumer associates with your brand to begin with. Thanks to any number of factors, some level of trust could be implicit at the outset of the relationship.
Here are some questions I'm still in the process of addressing...
- How do we engage in an honest conversation when we know our ultimate motive is to benefit our brand?
- Once we come to terms with that, how do we stimulate such a conversation? Do we pro-actively engage the consumer and ask them to dance, or do we wait for them to come to us?
- Why would the consumer want to talk to us in the first place? (I suppose the answer to that is because they have a need.)
- How do specific forms of social media advance this process? What features/benefits does each provide?
As you can see, I've got a long way to go in mastering the art of conversational media marketing. There are a number of role models I'm looking to for help, Jeremiah Owyang, Joseph Jaffe, David Meerman Scott and Lee Odden to name just a few. (Sorry, guys, but I've got to ride on your coattails a while if you don't mind. I'm still a journeyman apprentice. I'll try not to come across too much like a groupie.)
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