For the past couple weeks I've had a mantra: We don't call it TV marketing, so why do we call it social marketing?
Think about that for a second. TV is a media. Social is a media. In fact, unlike TV, we actually add media to the name for social media. So why, may I ask, do we treat social media as a tactical discipline?
With TV we don't limit ourselves to one set of tactics, after all. There are rules, certainly. Some things work better for some products, and some time slots work better for some executions. But essentially TV functions as a canvas upon which we paint our programs for branding, direct selling, product placement or press relations.
Now consider the gospel of social media. In this gospel, we have conversations and create engagement. We talk about it being hard to accurately measure effectiveness and we claim we shouldn't negate brand building as an objective. And most of all, we talking about it being a relational media, not a broadcast media.
First let me say, all of the gospel is good. And God smiles on the socially savvy. But the facts don't hold up when it comes to looking at this approach as the one and only true faith.
A Problem of Scale
I can't emphasize enough that I agree in the principles of using conversation marketing as a relational medium. However problems arise in this model when it begins to scale.
What happens when you reach 20 million followers? Do we really expect a brand to have meaningful engagements with that many people? Even if we find key influencers and distribute the effort, we'll never cover that amount of folks. And as Valeria Maltoni pointed out on this week's episode of The BeanCast, problems occur when trying to keep up with even 200 followers.
At scale, there is no getting around the fact that the medium becomes a broadcast media for a brand. You can still listen and even engage in some dialogue, but for the majority of followers you are nothing more than a mouthpiece for the brand — a source of information and discounts.
And Let's Talk About Discounts
This brings up another issue with the social gospel. While it is good — nay, even desirable — to engage with followers, most people don't follow brands for a relationship. They follow the brand for discounts, deals and information.
Given that understanding, we begin to realize that it's not taboo to sell via social venues. It's just imperative to understand the level of the engagement and market appropriately.
For instance, if we understand that there is a difference between someone who "likes" a brand and someone who engages with a brand, then all we need do is message them appropriately. Likes are given brand messaging, while engagers are given offers. But to say that we can't pump an offer or two out is just silly. We just need to follow rules similar to direct mail in the end. We can blanket send the offer (which is stupid and annoying) or we can target specific channels with offers that make relevant sense (which is smart and effective).
What I am advocating here is not throwing out social media puritanism. What I am saying is that in advertising we rule media, we aren't ruled by media. And as such we need to get back to basics and stop muddying the discipline pool by saying we do social marketing. In marketing we do branding, direct selling/lead generation and public relations. I know it's semantics, but it's important to distinguish this in order to understand that we are able to paint all kinds of tactics on the canvas that social media provides.
And God smiled