More Than Just Marketing on Social Steroids


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Much of the current interest in social marketing is as a way to infect social networks with company messages. Getting your customers to do your marketing for you if you like. Marketing on social steroids.

Is this the end-game for social marketing. Maybe not. Some companies are already experimenting with other social business models. Models that put the customer more in charge,

Here’s an easy thought experiment.

How would the role of social networks change if companies simply became enablers for customers to transact through, like GM’s online car configurator, which offers competitor models in addition to their own? Would GM be trusted more by the social network of car buyers? Could GM influence the social network in any way? Is there a payoff for GM for enabling the social network?

Glen Urban describes this social business model in his book Don’t Just Relate. Advocate.

And taking the thought experiment one step further.

How would the role of social networks change if intermediary companies simply aggregated customers’ needs and then drove a harder, volume-based bargain with companies on their behalf, like power aggregator Power Options, which aggregates the demands of 550 non-profits to get cheaper electricity and natural gas.

Alan Mitchell describes this social business model in his book Right Side Up.

And taking the thought experiment one more step further.

How would the role of social networks change if customers simply collaborated amongst themselves without much help from companies or intermediaries, like Peer-to-Peer bank Zopa, which facilitates ordinary people to lend small amounts of money to other (ordinary) people.

Yochai Benkler describes this social business model in his book The Wealth of Networks.

There is so much more to social marketing than we have discussed to-date. Time to get your thinking caps on.

What do you think? Is social marketing nothing nore than marketing on social steriods? Or is the customer really going to take charge?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn


  1. Graham,

    You raise a number of good points about social media marketing. As to your last question, I think it comes down to what ‘could be’ and what ‘might be.’

    The ‘could be’ refers to the potential of a collaborative, mutually adapting relationship between customers and company. If companies rise to the occasion customers will not take charge. They will set the agenda and gravitate to companies that truely see win-win relationships.

    The ‘might be’ is the fear that the zero-sum game attitude that prevails in so many companies will look for ways to use social media to gain and unwarrranted advantage. Fake peer reviews is one example.

    In fairness, some of the people who could contribute to the ‘might be’ concern are not devious, they just don’t know how to do business in any other way. I was involved in a roundtable discussion on business and social media last night and left more than a little concerned. Most of the group were Silicon Valley CEO’s leading new social networking companies. The remainder were thought leaders in the social media space. Most of the CEO’s were in a hurry to get a product launched. Most felt that business executives wanted a platform to exploit the high participation social communities. Most had a very weak business model with respect to the ‘social’ element.

    In my book the social element has to do with sharing, participation, co-operation and contribution. The opposite of being asocial. None of this was the normal for the roundtable discussion, at least on the part of the CEO’s.

    The parting comment by one of the other thought leaders was “Maybe we will have to waiting until a younger generation gets into leadership role.”

    I hope this is not the case. The books you mention will help readers gain some insight into new models. I certainly encourage them to read the books and participate in discussion on site like CustomerThink.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.
    Author of Addicted Customers:How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company


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