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Am I Doing Social Right?

social-shellSocial media isn't new, since social networking is something humans have done with each other since we could communicate. But online social networking is making things different, like the dissemination of information, the ease of crowdsourcing, and will ultimately demand new methods of marketing and persuasion by those who want to monetize it.

Yes, social networking is not a benefit, it's a product. And like all products, it needs to make money. But the way social media as a product behaves is quite different than others. Firstly the demographics aren't just there to be entertained, or solely to gleam info. It's something more.

So how does one market to audiences in a manner that parallels what social networking is all about?

Why Social Media?

Why is a big question. Social media has garnered addicts in a manner that no game, movie, or book has before. It's almost reached the point where in order to partake in general society one must "plug into" a social network of some sort. There are far more efficient places to find news and entertainment, and yet people always return to their social network of choice.

One reason is to participate in mutual self-broadcasting. A finer perspective of this comes down to people liking to present themselves as an expert; that whenever we post a status update or comment towards an issue we are contributing our own knowledge to the conversation at hand, and others take our input as peer-advice. From another angle, people like interacting with other individuals that appear to be on their same level. Corporations and organizations are large, committee-run entities, and do not fall under the same levels of interaction.

You can converse casually with a person, compliment them, question them, and insult them. Responses are personal. When dealing with legion, with greater entities made up of myriads, the whole tone of the conversation is different. There is more formality, more decorum; it's not longer a chat but now a business call. A goal needs to be achieved, and the flow of the conversation is towards that goal. However, in a business call both sides have goals, sometimes contrary to each other. Then comes the awkward and dicey haggling of compromise. In business things are at stake. Between individuals, there aren't stakes.

In social media, everybody's a person. There are no "business websites" and originally Facebook did not even want businesses represented on its profiles. Facebook was for people, employees, and co-workers; not for organizations.

So What's Wrong?

Imagine you're at a class reunion. Everyone is mostly amiable, if boasting of their own accomplishments. Then some uninvited person shows up, takes the stage, and then starts loudly proclaiming why you should buy stuff from his trunk. Would anyone listen to him? No, they'd think he's annoying and ignore him. That person has rudely interrupted a venue he was not supposed to be at and "totally killing the mood."

And that's what most advertisements are doing on social networks.

Old Spice Guy

Now imagine the "cool guy" from the class swaggers in and regales everyone with stories of how he climbed a mountain. He goes on to show everyone photos and videos from his trip, and everyone is enamored with his story.

Now, when everyone disperses and goes home, they'll each be thinking about that story, and how great it would be if they could do that too. They've been planning on getting the family out of the house, and the exercise would probably do everyone some good. But they'll need hiking packs, clothes, protein bars, and maps. But where to get all these? They'll probably just use what worked for their adventuring classmate, since obviously his stuff worked well.

See the difference? In the first example, the advertiser declared his wares and demanded that people buy them. In the second, people were led to want to buy wares.

"Creating demand" isn't a new concept to marketers, and many advertising campaigns already seek to do this. The problem is most continue to see social media in the wrong light.

Social networking is not a herd of people looking to buy something; social networks are not a mall. Social networks are a hang-out place, where business is the last thing on people's minds. Marketers often approach social channels as outlets to advertise in, and this will always fail for that reason.

Budweiser's Made In America TourDoing It Right

A company's website is where the business is. That's where the shopping cart exists, where users browse through products and select which ones they want. The company website is the retail store. Keep the business where it works best, there.

So what's social networking for? That's where the branding happens, but it can't be explicit. Again, those who hark their wares on Facebook or Twitter find only deaf ears. Maybe the occasional interested person will listen, and of that selection might come a slim fraction who actually carry out a conversion (a purchase, submitted form, etc.).

A company's Facebook is where they should express themselves creatively, share anecdotes, show community outreach. There a company does not play host, it plays storyteller, cohort, and drinking buddy. In social media a company talks about what it does, not what it sells.

Companies on social channels should see each potential viewer as a potential fan, not a client. Why? Because no one else there does. Again, business is the least priority on social networks, even if it's the highest priority on a company website. Success on Facebook and Twitter should be measured in brand loyalty, not purchases.

So what makes this worth a company's time and resources? Because social media is a place to brag, to show off and impress. It's a place to win over hearts and minds. With brand loyalty comes dedication, when someone chooses your product not because it's the lowest price but because they're proud to buy from you. And in an era of increasing globalization, loyalty is worth more than even a dozen purchases. Loyalty can be a lifetime of purchases, and even lead to future generations of purchasing.

Engage, Entertain, and IntrigueSo How?

Each social channel is geared towards their own slightly unique niche. It is important to have a presence on all of them, because that's where people spend most of their time. Your presence there should contribute to that channel's content, not detract from it.

Again, explicit advertising detracts from the local atmosphere, so keep it subtle. Let your content be your ad. Every participant on a social network must participate in it. If the channel is video-based, then produce and share noteworthy videos. If it's micro-blogging, then produce good quips and share others.

Do not forget the networking part. On a given social network, don't just plug yourself. Plug others whose content aligns with yours. That is participating in the network. Interact with fans, don't just broadcast. Engage, entertain, and intrigue.

But always remember your tone. You're not putting a billboard up to market to the masses. You're trying to win over your best friend.

What are some of your most memorable social campaigns, and why?

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