Is the Social Web a Distraction?


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“Use the web to innovate and as an early warning system to manage and protect your brand. After all, it’s theirs, not yours.”

The CMO frowns. “But we make hubcap fasteners and our customers are happy to buy them. If it’s their brand, will they still pay us for it?” – “The Dangerous Lure of the Social Web” by Jonathan Salem Baskin

As marketers, we can be distracted by glimmering new communications channels and tools that offer the promise of better customer engagement, instant customer dialogues and, ultimately, share of wallet. We are hyper-motivated to sell our products and services anywhere and everywhere our customers may be – in stores or on the web, email, social media or mobile phones. But in fact, this frenzy of customer contact is often a disguise for potentially mediocre, commoditized wares. That approach to selling isn’t based on listening or learning, or making intelligent offers. The promise of instant gratification from new social media tools in particular can dilute the benefits associated with good branding – specifically differentiation, value and loyalty.

Those are some of my take-a-ways from the recent Advertising Age article, “The Dangerous Lure of the Social Web.” In the piece, writer Jonathan Salem Baskin (@jonathansalem) examines the marketing purposes of social engagement and reckons that social is quite possibly just a revamping of old mass marketing strategies. He writes:

People have always had conversations about brands. Before the internet, there were communities of geography, profession, education, religion and a host of social groups that were perhaps less broad and bright than those available online, but instead more deep and sustaining…Social behavior isn’t unique to technology; it’s just that we have partial visibility into some aspects of how people converse now, so we want to prompt or participate in those activities.

Baskin continues that point by saying that

…The problem is that today’s consumers are more disbelieving, expect more insight and truth, and are willing and able to find out whatever you least want them to know, and yet we’re not regularly feeding conversations with the information, however creatively portrayed, to address those requirements. And, “[despite] all the marvelous online branding engagement that prompts consumer clicks and chuckles, [it] doesn’t earn their trust.”

In our opinion, that lack of trust can be largely attributed to the fact that those marketers aren’t really engaging in conversations, because they are only one-sided. We need to do better. Informing, engaging and encouraging long term customer relationships can only happen if we rely on conversational marketing technology to centrally track, manage and measure customer interactions – across all inbound and outbound channels, not just social media. We need to make offers based on specific preferences and historical behavior. We need to engage in one-to-one personalized dialogues. Only then can we be confident about delivering a meaningful brand experience.

In short, we will always encourage experimentation with new channels, but marketers must be thoughtful and consider their relevancy to the business, brand and customers. Don’t get distracted by the hype when you should be nurturing and protecting those one-to-one relationships. As Baskin aptly summarizes, when companies sell a better product, “sharing that reality with customers is the marketing opportunity offered by the social web, not a substitute for it.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stephan Dietrich
Stephan Dietrich's leadership and passion have become hallmarks of his 8-year tenure at Neolane. He brings 15 years of enterprise software and marketing expertise and a broad range of management experience in the high-tech arena. As President of Neolane Inc, Stephan is responsible for driving Neolane's strong business growth in North America.


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