BrainTrust Query: To Understand Social Media, Marketers Must Drop the C Word

Discussion
Oct 27, 2009
Joel Rubinson

Commentary
by Joel Rubinson, Chief Research Officer, The Advertising Research Foundation

In
ARF’s first meeting on social media, Chris Andrew, leader of Digitas Social
said, “We must stop using the ‘C’ word.” (C for “Campaign”).

In
a broadcast marketing world, we think of brand communications as being chunked
up into campaigns. In a social media world, you are creating a permanent commitment
to be present and part of the conversation. It isn’t a campaign, it is on-going
and self-perpetuating. He’s right – you can’t just pull the plug on conversation,
access, and authenticity. How about social media campaigns that you CAN pull
the plug on? Well maybe those reflect broadcast advertising mentality ported
over to social media environments — it “sounds” like social media, but it
is really broadcast (or narrowcast — but it’s ‘cast for sure!). BTW, Chris
sees the value in broadcast campaigns as part of a complete marketing strategy.

Sam
Ford, Peppercom, added that this isn’t about press relations anymore, it’s
1-1 relations; that’s the future. He also hates the word “viral.” We aren’t
creating undesirable infections; marketers must create content and apps that
people willingly share with their friends who they think would enjoy them.
In social media, peeps become the targeting engine!

Mark
Studness from Verizon talked about their success with new customer care models
based on peer-to-peer knowledge sharing environments they have created. He
admits he “lived in fear every night” when they first got started, exposing
their brand and service problems like that, but now he couldn’t imagine turning
off the spigot and, in fact, is making both peer-created and Verizon-created
content simultaneously searchable.

When
Lynne d. Johnson, the ARF’s head of social media (formerly head of communities
at Fast Company mag.) asked our panel about ROI, it was clear that we don’t
have all the answers yet. However, the answer I liked best was from General
Mills’ Heather Maxwell, “What is the ROI for you to send your mother a mother’s
day card?” So I might add, what is the ROI for authenticity? Who cares? What
kind of company do you want to be?

The
final big point is that you can’t jump into social media, you should listen
first. There are many wonderful listening platforms so pick one and dig in.
Get a twitter account, start sharing ideas with people you want to follow.
Search Twitter, Blogpulse and Google trends for key words you are interested
in. Dip a toe.

Whether
or not people will talk about you in social media is not the marketer’s choice;
the key issue is whether you will become part of the conversation. Or, as Lynne
d. Johnson asks, “Are you going to become the chief storyteller for your own
brand?”

Discussion Questions:
To what extent does the arrival of social media mean the end of campaign-driven
marketing efforts? How will talking to consumers change and stay the
same? How does measuring ROI around marketing efforts change?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

16 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: To Understand Social Media, Marketers Must Drop the C Word"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
David Biernbaum
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

Some forward-thinking comments by Joel Rubinson on the topic of social media. I think most of what he suggests is very true for big brands. I especially enjoyed his comment about dropping the word “viral” for exactly the reasons he stated. Positive publicity is not a disease! However, for small brands, startups, and new brands that are not widely advertised in the traditional ways, I think it’s important to do a “campaign.” I’m sorry Joel!

Anne Howe
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

LOL! I love the ROI on a Mother’s Day card analogy. For me, the key letters do include C, and L and a couple of E’s. All are relevant to learning something new, and to literally millions of old-school marketers, learning is what they need to do!

L is for Listen; not a new concept but clearly step 1.
E is for Engage; as was stated – dip a toe!
E is for Experiment – test a few marketing type things so you have more to listen to and evaluate.
C is for Community – the core fabric of what this is all about for people. Get involved so you can understand the power of authentic interactions that social media delivers for yourself.

http://www.twitter.com/ShopperMarkting

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 6 months ago

I have a term for social media marketing. I call it ‘marketing to the already distracted’. Of course you cannot campaign. The consumer cannot be brainwashed or worn down anymore. Marketing messages must actually contain value and have to be very concise when marketing through these channels. In some cases, your marketing message has come under 140 characters. That’s a true exercise in copy writing.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
11 years 6 months ago

Some excellent points. The key here is that social media is not simply a new channel to push the same old message through. Secondly, you can’t use the same measurement concepts to gauge success or failure. This is sometimes a huge intellectual shift for conventional marketers.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
11 years 6 months ago

Great article.

The old marketing model of “We talk, you listen” has now been turned completely upside down. The new model is now “We listen, you talk.”

The notion of ROI seems confusing to me. Most of the channels for Social Media are free (at least for now). Compare this with a $1 million minute for the Super Bowl. What am I missing?

Mary Baum
Guest
Mary Baum
11 years 6 months ago
Quickly, without reading the other comments, (so I apologize if I’m duplicating) to me, social media needs to be a way of life and not a campaign. It should function as an everyday habit, that you spend a set amount of time and energy on every single day. Do you have a strategy, objectives, goals? Of course. But especially at the beginning, where your first job is to listen to what’s going on in a given ecosystem–and I deliberately didn’t use the word medium–you’ve got to show up and participate with what’s already there before you can hope to have anyone listen to whatever message you think you’re there to push. A clear example of this is FriendFeed–the service that just got bought by Facebook a couple of months ago. When you first see the site, you see a lot of content coming down from a lot of sources, and people from every corner of the internet commenting on it. So a classic mistake newbies make is to start posting things–and then they wonder why… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
11 years 6 months ago
I think we can stipulate to Joel’s points (and those of the various people he quotes). Clearly the concept of “campaign” is quaint when we are talking about interactive online channels like blogs, Twitter and Facebook groups. Our advertising ROI obsession implies that we require tight control over our messaging and its impact in a finite time frame. None of that applies very well to the new “social” media. In my practice we have begun to help several clients with what I like to call “online voice management.” While the approach is still evolving, we generally look for ways to blend email, blog, Web site content, electronic press release distribution, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to create a credible and highly visible story line for the client. The short-term benefit is search engine visibility. Longer term, the vehicles capture useful market and behavioral feedback and provide means for customers to interact with each other. The approach still involves priming the pump with news releases, thought leadership content, and product information, so it is not “free.” And… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

My minority opinion is that social media is not a brand strategy, it is a communication channel; one that affords marketers the rare opportunity to engage directly with customers.

I love the point about ROI. We encouraged our clients to redefine ROI long before social media took off since after all, most quantifiable marketing tools were once seen as airy fairy dart throws (in-store networks anyone?) If you wait until ROI can be calculated, you’ve already missed the boat.

Jonathan Marek
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

The big question on social media is “what is the scope?” Yes, I get that this is a different mode of communication with different rules. But still, it must come down to allocation of marketing resources. Is this something a big brand does with 1% of its marketing budget to promote engagement, with an indirect payoff? Something akin to sponsorships? Or is this something more? Or, is it something that is an important sales driver but that fails the minute it becomes “managed” (like Chowhound or Yelp for restaurants in San Francisco)?

I think the jury is out, but my gut is that social media will not replace a relevant portion of traditional marketing resources. In the future, I suspect mobile (the evolution of search and maps in a mobile environment?) is more likely to drive future calls to action in a way that takes dollars from traditional media.

Bob Livingston
Guest
Bob Livingston
11 years 6 months ago

Social media continues to evolve and I am finding very few suppliers or retailers deny its potency as a listening tool. However, few seem to know how to embrace it proactively as a marketing tool. Social networking as a medium needs to be a part of any “campaign” i.e. television, internet, phone, print, in-store, etc. It used to be about exposure of a brand to consumers, with impressions. Today it is about “connecting” with consumers in a meaningful, interactive way, (their way), wherever they are and whenever they choose to engage you….

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

I’m always amazed by the reluctance of brands to jump right in and make themselves available to their audiences. Brands don’t necessarily control the dialogue…consumers do. The word “campaign” means that the conversation would be directed by the brand, and that’s just not the way things work now. Take the plunge, brands, and watch your customers come to you!

Gary Edwards, PhD
Guest
Gary Edwards, PhD
11 years 6 months ago
Social media allows brands to connect with their customers like never before, encouraging a more personal form of communication and one-to-one marketing. You must pay attention to what’s being said about your brand and respond to customer concerns/complaints in the online forum. Yet I don’t believe the advent of social media signals the end of campaign-driven marketing efforts. It’s more about integrating campaigns into your overall approach rather than eliminating them all together. If you view social media as a one-off initiative rather than a comprehensive strategy, your chances of success in the space start to decline. In order for social media efforts to be successful, the brand itself must be fully engaged in the digital channel. And in order to be engaged, your brand should have a strategy to define areas of focus with social media–it’s just another channel for you to interact with your customers. Just like any other campaign-driven initiatives, social media requires a plan that allows you to effectively communicate with customers, getting them excited about your brand and interacting with… Read more »
Susan Parker
Guest
Susan Parker
11 years 6 months ago
Social media has changed the rules forever. Marketers and PR professionals can no longer hide behind glitzy campaigns with no substance. While social media does give the consumer more power, it also gives brands more power and leverage. The important thing to remember about social media is that it is not what is being said about your brand that is important, but rather WHO is saying it. Yes, your brand may be getting praised or trashed by people on Twitter or Facebook but ultimately what matters is who is saying it and who is listening or reading that comment and agreeing profusely. Social media is about identifying the Influencers – those who hold great social sway over their followers (Twitter) or friends (Facebook). Are their positive or negative comments being broadcast to hundreds or thousands, or in the case of Dooce (a famous blogger who had a major beef with a large retailer over an appliance part) 1 million readers/followers? (Who quickly had her beef rectified by the VP upon his hearing of 1 million… Read more »
Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 6 months ago

How do you measure the ROI on a relationship? Social media allows companies to dialog with their customers and as the dialogue continues, a relationship is built. When a customer asks a company a question via Twitter and the company responds, what is the ROI? It is immeasurable.

This is where marketing is headed. It is less about the ROI and more about the ROE–Return on Engagement. If companies focus more on building long-term relationships with their customers based on respect and trust than focusing on searching for an ROI, then they will ultimately thrive in the marketplace.

Sam Ford
Guest
Sam Ford
11 years 6 months ago

Several great comments here. Among the few places where people on this thread seem to disagree, I think it’s likewise important to point out that there is often no one right answer and what is needed for each brand and each initiative should be quite different. One of the great values of marketing through social media and reaching audiences online is the ability you have to target very specific niche audiences in many cases. However, targeting means there is no “silver bullet” metric to prove ROI. It greatly depends on what you hope to achieve.

By the way, David, glad you found the points regarding “viral” useful. This is based on some work I’m doing with Henry Jenkins at USC, Joshua Green at MIT, and the team at the Convergence Culture Consortium. I recently wrote some thoughts in greater detail in conjunction with the ARF on the subject.

JoAnn Hines
Guest
JoAnn Hines
11 years 6 months ago

Social media represents different things to different people. It builds bonds with sometimes seemingly very diverse audiences. Rather than instigating a marketing “campaign” I’d consider it more effective to build a relationship with your core constituency. However, it does take time to determine who and what that audience represents.

The hard sell doesn’t work either; it’s more about giving than getting. I am amazed at how many CPG companies haven’t yet recognized this. They are pushing rather than serving their potential market.

It’s easy to tell how much traction you are getting by the amount of return response. While you may not be able fix a number to ROI, results will be forthcoming in different ways: more people following, recommending, responding, or even criticizing your content. In any case a response positive or negative is an indicator that someone is listening.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

To what extent does the arrival of social media change the way brands communicate with consumers?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...