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August 07, 2008

Build Relationships

If most traditional profit-motivated advertising is unwelcome and ignored, organizations wanting to build interest in what they offer are in for quite a challenge. This is especially true if what they offer, on its face, just isn't that interesting (such as those products that have a generic, store-brand substitute).

So what do you do? If you listen to a lot of people positioning themselves as social media experts, the answer has something to do with "conversations" and "relationships."

The problem with that theory is that large companies usually try to use the same scalability goals as traditional advertising to the "relationships" they build. They other ways to distribute the same old tired ads in a different form.

If it's pushed over a social networking site, somehow this makes the company more "hip."

But the sad fact is (to marketers) that most people just aren't that into common brands.

As a result, companies commonly resort to 2 strategies (and usually in this order):

  • Mislead. "We'll call whatever we do--however ineffective it is--'building relationships.'"
  • Give up. "Social media is a waste of time and money."

Companies typically have no interest in talking with customers. They want to talk at customers and pretend it's the same thing. Taking that approach, of course it's going to fail.

Falling prey to their own unquenchable thirst to talk about themselves, many companies fail to realize a critical truth about marketing in the age of conversation:

Initially, the modern marketing tools that make communication easy and cheap are better used for listening than for talking.

Here's why:

  • Your talking gets in their way.
  • They have other places to go.
  • They have nothing but a click invested in you.
  • They can live without you.

This doesn't mean you can't use social media and customer relationship tools. You can, and you should. This can be especially effective after you've received your customers' permission to communicate with them in some way.

But if the only permission you're seeking is the privilege of sending marketing emails, you may occasionally get their attention and inform them of a sale you're running. But you're missing the most important benefit of having any relationship -- the ability to learn more about the other party so that you can serve them better.

Attention is good, but insight is better. - Cam Beck

Related Posts
Part 1: Give Them Ads You Want Them To See
Part 2: Give Them Ads They've Asked To See   


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"Initially, the modern marketing tools that make communication easy and cheap are better used for listening than for talking"

That right! More than a mass marketing channel, social media is a tool for:
- Customer service
- Market intelligence
- Feedback tool for Product marketing

I still don't believe that social networks are the ultimate advertising platform since their reach is limited (compared to other mass media) and the reactivity (unfortunatly we only measure impressions, clicks and sometimes interaction) is not that big. Of course, social networks appear to be ideal to engage users but it's still difficult to find a good engagement metric.

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