Social Shortcomings

Social marketing isn’t it.

With humans living on the net, and with obvious advantages to social media manipulations as a marketing tactic, many people have happily abandoned other forms of promotions in favor of social. Later they unhappily abandon their jobs to fill slots in unemployment lines.

dead_horse_social_mediaHumans, being the quirky bunch they are, need a number of things to occur before a purchase. Most of all they need to perceive value in a product and believe the value will actually be delivered. Good marketers can create a brand (the basic value proposition) and awareness of the brand, then discover this is not enough. Alone, knowing a brand and that it makes a promise is weak soup that omits essential ingredients in the marketer’s cookbook.

No wonder social marketing often tastes bland.

To believe in a brand requires some form of “proof.” This may be fanciful or it may be statistical, but it must exist. Customer case studies are still essential in many industries because it creates belief around a sales pitch (the fact that so many case studies fail to tie differentiated value to a customer story shows why many bush league marketing people never reach the majors). Social media helps create believability through peer recommendations, but these are limited to the sphere of influence of the person recommending a product. Unless they are evangelical and well connected, social buzz may never occur.

As a general rule, people have to encounter your brand three times, preferably from three different sources, before they can even understand your brand, much less believe in it. Advertising exists mainly to communicate brand value and remains a crowbar in the marketers’ tool box for achieving brand awareness and believability. Tradeshow presence, PR and other devices do as well. Your job is to determine the appropriate mix of these activities to move the market toward its next level of brand adoption.

Allow me to continue flogging this expired equine. Imagine two identical products, both using social media as a promotional tool. Product A relies exclusively on social media while Product B uses social, PR and advertising. The first sticking point is that a buyer may (or may not) encounter a social connection that knows either product. Even if he hears about Product A from an online friend, he likely hears similar stories about Product B, reads a placed piece about Product B in an online magazine and sees B’s banner ad on his favorite web site. He is infinitely more likely to recognize, understand and believe Product B’s brand. This unfairly biases his opinion about Product B.

Which means marketing did its job.

The point of today’s disquisition is that we cannot put undue emphasis on social media. Yes, the net has enabled social to work well and its cost effectiveness is inarguable. But alone it is not enough when competing solutions exist. You must thump a prospect’s noggin many times and from many angles to own his brain, to bias his perception. You must keep old school systems while wielding new school style.


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