An Open Letter About Social Media Marketing

If you're trying to sell social media plans within your organization or to a client, you know the pitfalls. There's a lot of fear and misunderstand about what it's all about. "How does it fit into our organization?" "Where do we start?" "How do we get there?"

The following is a email I recently wrote designed to boil social media marketing down to a nutshell. This is not a plan or an action list. This is about understanding the role social media can play and presenting a simple model to underpin the efforts.

I hope it clarifies some of your own thinking. And be my guest to lift and use any part that may help your own efforts.

The EMail

Thanks for taking the time to consider the social media marketing ideas we've been discussing.

The hardest thing to understand about social media marketing is that it is not a "media" in the traditional sense. You can't really buy and run ads, because as soon as you do you've turned the effort into brand advertising or direct marketing. In fact, the least effective communication schemes are those that "use" the social medium to push out communications. I may work (for a time) but it's left the social space and entered the promotional space.

Social media marketing is instead about creating, enhancing and empowering venues of conversation, where your customers can do the talking. It's about making your advocates into the stars, with you playing a supporting role. So really a better term is "conversational marketing." And that's what we're aiming to achieve — the creation of positive conversation surrounding the brand.

To get there, we embrace the following model:

  1. Listen - Everything starts here...Internally and then later externally we listen to the conversation first
  2. Plan - Before we say anything, we take what we hear and make our efforts fit the needs of the conversation
  3. Respond - Based on the imperatives of the plan, we take a supportive and responsive role...we are here to empower
  4. Post - Pushing out information only happens if it makes sense and empowers the customer

We may never start a blog. We may never tweet. But if we stick to this model, we at least have a methodology for dealing with the social space and know for sure what our involvement will be at every turn.

We'll lay out our ideas for getting there when we talk, but as you can probably guess from the model, it all starts with listening. We listen to your team, to your customer service reps, to your legal team and management team — basically we create venues of conversation throughout the company, applying the principles of conversational marketing on the internal organization first. From this will spring the all-important Corporate Social Media Policy document, identifying the social players who may already be out there in the organization (there have to be a few bloggers, tweeters and forum users out there) and a plan of actions for taking this to the field.

So, more details to come. We're looking forward to learning a little more about your own goals for this effort. But hopefully this will give you a basic understanding of our philosophy, and how we can help enhance retention, loyalty and advocacy for your brand by fostering an authentic and ongoing conversation with your customers.

Bob Knorpp
The Cool Beans Group

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