Written by Ted Rubin
In watching the social media revolution unfold around us over the past several years, there’s a recurring theme that keeps popping up. I see it all the time in discussions on “best practices” and in forums and blogs where marketers lament the fact that you can’t measure ROI in social and that marketing (from blog marketing to new social platforms) has completely changed. The “gurus” out there say it’s a brand new world—the past is past—we have to throw out the old and create the new, yada, yada, yada.
You know what I say to that? Phooey!
The number ONE reason some marketers fail when they try to use social media is that they DON’T take into account important traditional marketing lessons from the past—and I’m talking Plain Jane, Vanilla Manilla lessons that should be the bread and butter for any marketer. Social media doesn’t supplant traditional marketing practices and tenants. In fact, it enhances it when handled correctly.
Sure, social media is a different animal from traditional media. People use it for different reasons, there are unspoken “rules of conduct” for different platforms, and it’s a two-way street for communication, not a one-way advertising platform like TV or direct mail. But people are people, as they have been for thousands of years. They buy for the same reasons now as they did when they wore animal skins and lived in caves—because they want something or perceive a need for it.
Contrary to popular belief, people don’t suddenly sprout two heads when they sit in front of a computer monitor or pull out their mobile phone to look something up. In fact, just look at history. They didn’t sprout two heads when radio came along—or television—or cell phones—or any other communication medium for that matter. We didn’t re-invent our species; we just learned to communicate using different channels. We’re still motivated by the same buying emotions.
So here are Three Key Marketing 101 Lessons I think we need to remember when using social:
- You are NOT Your Customer—Do Your Research: One of the most important lessons every marketer should remember is to market to your target—not yourself. Yet how many times does your inner voice tell you “They’ll never buy that…?” Don’t spout information YOU THINK your market wants to hear. Listen to your prospects first—and social is just about the greatest listening tool ever invented. It’s focus groups on steroids! Use social media to listen to who your ideal customer is and what she wants before you start messaging.
- Frequency Isn’t a Bad Thing: Social reach and frequency are tangential to good marketing, as long as your content is relevantto your market. How many times does a potential target need to see your message before they convert? You might as well ask how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop (remember that old TV commercial?). Some will bite after a dozen licks; for others, it’s three—depends on where your audience is in a given moment when they see your message. And remember, you’re not just talking to one person here—you’re getting in front of your audience’s friends and their friends as well. The more the merrier. So do not forget about good ole “reach and frequency.”
- Story is Important: Remember the power of storytelling, and use it in your communications. People can’t resist a good story. It’s an emotional connection bridge that is built into our human DNA. Social enhances it by allowing more consumers to share more stories about more of the products they see, buy and use. Another thing to remember about stories is that people are already having conversation about your brand, and you can’t necessarily control that. Companies who try to stem the tide of a bad story by trying to control the message find this out the hard way. However, you can INFLUENCE the kind of stories that are told about you by being involved in the conversation, transparent in your use of social media, and responsive to the needs of your customers, both online and offline.
These are just three lessons for now. There are many more that have been shuffled aside. Personally, I think every college student graduating with a marketing degree, every graduating MBA student, and those in the marketing department of brands, agencies and anyone responsible for marketing and especially social media, should have to re-learn Marketing 101. From here on out, social is going to play a principle role in doing business—but that doesn’t mean we throw out the baby with the bathwater.