The Big Change: Social Marketing


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Today I’m pleased to launch a new weekly series, The Big Change. Each Friday we’ll feature interviews with an expert in a critical area of business or life. We’ll chat about the key changes in their field of expertise and how we can all take advantage of those changes to create our own advantage. Today, let’s talk abouts everyone’s favorite topic, social marketing.

One of the biggest changes in our world today is the introduction of social media into our sales and marketing processes. We have never had such an opportunity to interact, engage and compel our audiences. We’e also never had such an opportunity to alienate our audiences and drive them straight into the arms of our competitors.

For too many organizations, social media is viewed as simply a new channel for traditional sales and marketing thinking. That’s the kiss of death for any brand, except perhaps the largest and most gorilla like brands who can get away with chest thumping and more – for now.

I asked Ric Dragon, author of Social Marketology:Improve your Social Media Processes, about the dramatic shifts created by social marketing and how we can best change our minds to create powerful audience engagement.

Social media offers the opportunity for a big shift in marketing. Yet status quo thinking gets in the way of social media innovation. What do you believe are the 3 top status quos that interfere with Social Marketology and success?

Many years ago when I was marketing an ERP system, one of the most common sentiments amongst the sales team was that our largest competitor was status quo. It becomes simpler for business leaders to not act in the absence of great urgency. Now, here we are at the apex of the social media revolution. On one hand, whole business segments are being reinvented – and on the other, you have whole segments that are late adopters. Those laggards are in danger of being unseated from their market positions by competitors that are willing to invest in social. But again, the urgency isn’t there.

Like anything new, there is confusion as to what exactly it might mean to use social. There are at least five major types of social media projects – brand maintenance, influencer project, community project, reputation management, and the “big splash” project – marketers are often unaware as to even what approach they should take, or even that there are different approaches.

The nascency of social also means that business leaders are often at a loss as to what to expect from it. How can they align their needs with what can seem like a maelstrom of communication methods and tools?

You talk about humanizing our brands. It seems to me that our brands are now being controlled by our markets thanks to social media and word of mouth. Any thoughts on how to leverage our own humanization to better manage that word of mouth?

There are a couple of different major aspects to humanizing the brand through social media. The first is that you should clearly define your brand’s personality and voice. Marketers used to go through a thorough process in identifying who the customers are. Today, we can turn this around, and identify who we are – how should our brand sound? It’s one thing to broadcast your messages to millions, but when you’re communicating one-on-one, your voice needs to be clearly articulated.

The second thing is that you can get out of the way, and allow your employees to speak on behalf of the brand. Of course, this can be a bit more involved than simply allowing it to happen – you need to provide training and policy – but it doesn’t have to be that complex. There are some great examples of organizations that are doing this well, such as SAP and the Ritz-Carlton. By empowering your employees, the humanity of the company comes through.

Strong>So many social media projects look at popularity as a measure of success. Yet we don’t even know if the folks connecting with us are our prospects. What do you recommend when it comes to segmenting and measurement?

Popularity can be important, even when those that you’re popular with are not your customers. Fans can, after all, help build an enthusiasm that those potential customers assume.

We do use a form of customer segmentation as a key step in the Social Marketology framework. By brainstorming smaller and smaller groups and sub-groups of “those who might care about you,” we’re able to identify groups of people who we can engage with through social media. This doesn’t replace good old-fashioned market segmentation – that’s still important – but it does provide a pool of groups to target for your communications.

I personally believe that community is one of the biggest and most underutilized opportunities out there for businesses of all sizes and shapes. What are your top 3 tips for an engaged and powerful community?

Community is one of those words in social media that can mean different things to different people. We have internal communities of employees, we have communities of customers, and we even have temporary communities of enthusiasts that might only last a weekend in the desert.

The job of helping to nurture a community is that of the community manager. This is the hottest job title being bandied about today. A great community manager doesn’t just come into a community and boss their way around. Instead, they might be likened to a wonderful dinner host that helps to encourage conversations and new acquaintances.

One way of considering how you’re doing in the community business is to measure how much connectivity you’re helping to create amongst others. If your organization is very clear about your underlying purpose, you can act from a position reflecting that purpose, as opposed to being promotional.

What are the top 3 mistakes you see businesses making in social media? What are the fixes and how should we be adapting our thinking?

There is, overall, a dearth of investment into social. It’s often relegated to the newest employees (“give Facebook to Mary – she’s young and right out of college – she’ll ‘get’ it”).

Being promotional – I might even be able to repeat this item three times – being promotional is anathema in the social environment. Some marketers claim there is a nice ratio where in every third communication you can be promotional – but for most brands, that just isn’t the case. If you are one of those great love brands, like Harley-Davidson, you can be promotional. In fact, your customers are passionate about your brand, and will expect it. Otherwise, stick with the brand’s underlying passion points.

Broadcasting – Many marketers think of social as being a communications channel. There are even tools that will automatically post a blog to Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook. Great social is not about broadcast, but is found in the nuance of the personal touch.

The herd instinct – our human need to follow others – is a big influencer in business. I personally see it all over social media with all the “me-too” campaigns and approaches. What will it take to create a Breakout Social Media Program?

The best brands are recognizing that storytelling is at the heart of great communications. Taken together with notions of trans-media – that is, communication across different media as opposed to simply replicating messages on different media – it’s very powerful. One of the basic tenets of trans-media is the notion of world building. In world building, you create an environment in which your audience becomes a part of your story. That means instead of controlling the story, your create an environment in which others can create the story. That has a lot in common with the notion of good community management that I mentioned above!

If you were advising a new client on social media and business – where would you start? What are the top 5 factors for a successful social media ramp up? How do you create innovation in that start to rise above the noise?

We always begin with developing a thorough understanding of what we call “desired outcomes.” This is so much bigger than simply how many followers you have. Instead, it encompasses everything from the bigger purpose and vision, to the goals, objectives, and specific metrics that will define success.

From there, our framework carries us on a small journey, wherein we discover:

  • The brand’s voice and personality
  • The myriad micro-segments of who should care
  • The communities in which those micro-segments exist
  • The influencers of those communities

After doing all of that work, we’re ready to create an action plan that aligns to those desired outcomes that we began with. We consider each of the major approaches to social media, and along with gaining an understanding of the resources available to the brand, devise a robust strategy.

We might very well hit upon a mix of those big approaches. But in any case, because we’ve aligned our work with a clear set of measurable outcomes, we can do our work and see if we’re having the impact that we predicted. We can adjust our course of action quickly, and discover new ways to achieve our objectives.

Another key factor in using social is to understand that it’s undergoing constant change. It’s very likely that social media platforms are just babies-in-diapers compared to where they are going in the next couple of years. We have to be prepared to adjust and change right along with the technology and the changes on in own culture.


CEO and co-founder of DragonSearch, Ric Dragon has 20 years of extensive experience in graphic design, information architecture, web development and digital marketing. He is a sought-after speaker, having spoken at numerous marketing and technology conferences. Ric is also a regular guest columnist forMarketing Land, and Social Media Monthly.

His new book, Social Marketology, was published by McGraw-Hill in June 2012 and has received positive reviews. His previous book, The DragonSearch Online Marketing Manual is also available.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Rebel Brown
Rebel Brown consistently challenges the status quo to deliver optimum solutions and high velocity growth for her clients. She combines the strategic expertise and tactical savvy of a global Corporate Strategy, Launch and Turnaround Expert, along with the leadership and motivational skills needed to get the job done.


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