These days, it seems a lot of corporate marketers are drooling over the prospects of social networks. “If we can simply infiltrate Facebook and Twitter,” the logic goes, “we’re in! We’ve got such great products and prices! Everyone online will love us! We’ll have thousands of fans, RSS feeds flying all over the place, and sales numbers through the roof!”
So corporate Facebook accounts are set up, fake friends are added, company-approved photos and logos are uploaded, and the cash just comes rolling in. Easy!
One word forms the core of successful social media marketing: Respect. Without it, at best, you're dead. At worst, you're dead AND you're viewed as an incredible d*ckhead.
Instead of only seeing big numbers and immediate opportunities associated with social media, taking history (and therefore, respect) into consideration is paramount for today’s marketers. Remember: All the social media outlets began in their purest forms as social (i.e., fun) places to hang out. Even though they’re rapidly evolving, that remains their essence. And that’s why they must be thought of as neighborhoods, not tradeshows.
Almost by their very nature, social media sites are distrusting of corporate motives – no shock there. But what many marketers don't realize is that their companies are akin to an insurance salesman ringing the doorbell at a loud, fun party on a Friday night: No one cares, no one's in the mood for a sales pitch, and most are questioning why he's even there. “Who the hell is that guy?” Being ignored is bad, but being hated is worse.
So the corporate social media relationship marketing strategy has turned into one big dorky party-crasher. Not cool.
But understanding the respect concept, however, changes everything. And it means social media marketers can have a positive impact. When respect comes into the equation, the situation becomes, "Hey, it's the insurance guy, but don't worry, he brought beer!" And instead of discussing ways to save on auto insurance, the insurance guy simply meets a few people, partakes in the activities, and enjoys the opportunity to simply be there. He’s not a self-promotional one-way blabbermouth; he’s a member of the community with a subtle message to share, but only at the right time with the right people.
That's a big difference. As massive as social media has become, it is not mass media. It’s one-to-one media. Strategically, you have to think in those terms. You’re not there to push yourself, but allow yourself to be pulled. Yes, that’s a passive strategy. But it’s the only one that works. You don’t honestly think you can show up at a crowded house, uninvited, and be the life of the party, do you? Well, do you?
If marketers approach social media from an I’m-an-uninvited-guest standpoint, be on their best behavior, and bring things of value and interest, then the chances for success increase. That’s why, to be even partially welcomed at the social media party, we need to figure out what our metaphorical beer is, make sure it’s appropriate, and make sure we bring enough for everybody.
Andrew Billmann is 19.75 years into a copywriting, advertising and marketing career in agency and corporate environments. While adept at writing for new media, he’s done more classical projects for companies ranging from Fortune 50 to high-tech startups. He generally prefers the social aspects of 25-cent happy-hour shrimp to those of any online network. Want to contact him? You can find him at firstname.lastname@example.org