Don’t confuse social media for organizing with social media for marketing

Pop appearing from nowhere ny thievingjoker via FlickrPut aside the “one size fits all” view of social media.

I have a proposition –

Social media for marketing is not the same as social media for organizing.

The social media we use in marketing is simply not the same as the social media that we use for organizing a commercial enterprise or, for that matter, a political movement.  It’s time for us to put aside the “one size fits all” view of social media.

First beginnings in social media

As people encounter social media, obviously, they begin at the beginning and they ask:

  • What is social media?
  • How do I get started?

As they progress, they discover Analytics and ask more sophisticated questions.

  • How do I monitor my traffic?
  • How can I gauge my relationship with my customers (or my audience)?

And then, some, but still only some, discover split testing and they ask:

  • How many ways could we lay out this page and which do our customers prefer?

We’d be very pleased if all our projects were running A/B or split tests and if we made our content decisions on the basis of data.

Tailor  social media for business

But, social media does not end with split-testing.  There is another peak and I think it is time social media commentators got together to draw a better map of our terrain.

What assumptions did we make when we asked our questions about social media?

We have more questions to ask.

  • What did we assume when we asked, “How effective are we?”
  • Did we assume, without saying so explicitly, that we want to use social media to sway people to our point-of-view?
  • Did we assume, without saying so explicitly, that we wanted to get as many people as possible to pursue the same call-to-action?

The thinking behind social media and marketing

I’ll put it to you that marketers tend to a view of engaging minimally with people.

Customers, by definition, are “out there” and their main role in our lives is to exchange their money for our goods and services.

Most of the time, though not all of the time, marketers set up quite simple transactions.  Two for a pound, etc.

The thinking behind social media and organizing

Inside the organization, our assumptions are a little different.

In organizations, we come together for a purpose and we create structures that are similar to a computer game.  Newbies are free to join in and level their way up through progressively harder quests.

In commerce, the levels are supposed to be fun and engaging.  But, levels aren’t put there for our amusement.  We have levels to allow people of varying competences to contribute.  We have levels to allow us to recruit and organize a wide variety of skills and experience so that able to achieve a common goal together.

I am not talking about simple gamification here.  A simple game is bingo – exciting to some but an essentially simply structure that has as its role light entertainment.  Marketers can use simple games very well.

Numbers make sense in marketing; they destroy value in organizing

But, when we want to go to the moon, or even sell lollipops, we need a little more.  We don’t need everyone to respond to one call-to-action.  Indeed, when more people than we need respond to a call-to-action, we waste resources.

To give you an example, it is stupid to have a call-to-action that results in 70 people responding to one job advertisement.  Ten will do.  Five qualified responses would be fine.

To give you another example, when I have a problem with coding, I don’t want to read through 50 answers.  I want to go to one place and find the answer within a few searches at the most.

To give you yet another example, when I am working in my office, I don’t want every noobe asking me basic questions.

We need levels.  We need order.  And, we need ways to organize our communications so that people can join in and find their way without a lot of support.

Our task is different from marketing.  They want volume.  It is their job to go outside the organization and extract money from people. It makes sense to do the same simple transaction over and over again. Indeed this is the very essence of commodified businesses.

At best, we are like the high end of marketing where there are customized sales and wide margins. But we are not even that because our output is common purpose.  The efforts of all our participants have to mesh.  They may not understand the whole picture but they won’t stay if the whole picture is not health because we won’t have the resources to keep them leveling up and taking out of the system what they want.

We are not marketers.  We are organizers.

If our social structures are different, it follows our social media will be different.  I think it is time for us to know the difference and to explain the difference to our clients.

We are not marketers.  We are organizers.  And our social media is different.  Marketers need volume.  Organizers need small numbers of people to do different things at the right time in the right order to achieve a common goal.

I think it is time for us to know the difference and to explain the difference to our clients.

 

The social media expert list wanted by business

The Conversation by Danielle Scott via FlickrClay Shirky talks about politics – what about social media and business?

I was stunned when I listened to Clay Shirky on the Middle East uprising.  Not stunned by what Clay Shirky said –  I’ve always believed that social media will rock the political world.  I was stunned because when I stopped to go behind Clay Shirky’s words, and more importantly, relate them to business, I arrived at a view about social media pundits might consider heresy.

Social media may be bad for dictators.   But, social media is not always good for business.  Not, because we are dictators.  We can’t be dictators in business.  But, because consumers have constant choice.

Consumers can love us, or leave us, with a lot less effort than they can love and leave their governments.  And frankly, your service or mine is a lot less important to them than the way they are treated by an all-powerful government.

In short, good people, social media is not always good for business because what we offer and sell is not always that important to our customers.  I am not being rude.  I am making an important point.

We have to listen to people because we our role in their lives is so small

Our consumers have lives, and their lives are much bigger than our businesses

Dictators need to listen to their people because they take over a person’s whole life.  We have to listen to people because we our role in their lives is so small.

Where dictators swamp every detail of a person’s life; the details of a person’s life swamp the use of our product.

What do we want to know before we know whether social media is good for business?

We want to know how the details of their lives swamp us.  Phrased positively, we want to know how we fit in to the bigger picture of their lives.

Social media has made niche conversational analysis important

Lifestyle analysis  is not new in marketing   Coca-Cola has people going around watching where they can put a cold box full of Coke to create a new channel and they find surprising places like commuter Kombis in Johannesburg.

What is new, A.SM. – after social media, is that social media has put the spotlight on lifestyle analysis and conversational analysis, in particular.

But not every conversation that is possible will happen.  Nor is every conversation important.  Our conversations may be ridiculously important to dictators, who are easily destabilized by the sudden connectedness of their people.

Business simply doesn’t need to worry in the same way as unpopular governments.  People in Inverness don’t necessarily want to suddenly start chatting about baked beans to someone in Brighton.  Nor are people in Invercargill going to start talking about baked beans with each other just because they can.  Nor will students in Brighton make baked beans the subject of Facebook. There has to be a reason why they might want to.

I got to spell this out.  With dictators, the reason was already there.  Waiting.  Simmering.  With business, because consumers have choice and are already doing what they want to do, changes are going to be a lot more subtle.  And probably a lot more unexpected, and a lot more counter-intuitive.

Easy solutions are not readily found.  Someone trying to take advantage of your market share online has to work just as hard as they do offline.  Perhaps harder.  Online audiences aren’t captive.  They click away fast.  When we are capturing attention online, we can think of 0.5% as baseline, 2% as good and 10% as marvelous.

The outfit that captures your market through social media – the outfit that beats you to your own market has, by chance, or keen acumen, understood that there is something about your baked beans that consumers want to talk about.  And, they provided your consumers with the social media facilities to talk about something they want to talk about.

This feels hard.  So it should.  Most Marketing students skip the lecture on analysis.  So let me give you examples.

Example 1: Baked beans may be the advance party

When consumers buy baked beans – what problem are they solving?  Are they students trying to fill up on a tight budget?  Do they have kids who are picky eaters?  Are they going camping and need something edible ready in 5 minutes on an open fire?

A challenger to our business might reconstruct the market around a more viable segment: student meals, mums with troublesome kids, dads organizing active holidays.

Example 2: Frugality with style

In the great recession of the 21st century, we are eating out less.  Have you noticed that we talk about eating out a lot less than we used to on Twitter?  When did you last see someone bragging about buying takeaways in London?  When did you last see ‘nom nom’?

We are eating at home more, but really, when we are planning a private party, why would we broadcast it?  Wouldn’t that be rude?

Conversations change in purpose

Our conversations have a purpose – a social purpose.  Who are we talking to?  Why? And what do we hope to achieve?

In politics, the conversation is obvious.  In business, we have to get thinking.  Consumers are as inventive as they are choosy.

How to use social media in business

Social media offers the possibility of completely new conversations with a completely new purpose.  That’s the danger (and excitement) of social media.

  1. Tracking mentions and sentiments is good.  It gets us started.  And most of us still have heaps to learn.
  2. Tracking how the conversation is morphing and understanding what the consumer is doing socially when they Tweet, Facebook and blog – thats where the opportunity lies.

That’s where challengers with a keen eye for social science are going to seize the opportunity with two hands and make inroads into our markets!

Social Scientists and Social Media in UK

This is what has changed.

  • Social media specialists who can track activity and sentiment
  • Social scientists who analyze the conversation and tell us what punters are trying to achieve socially when they talk online.  That is where the opportunities lie.

So who are the expert social scientists in UK?

So who are the expert social scientists in UK who can track morphing conversations? That’s the list we need to compile for business customers.

Would you drop a comment saying who you think are the most expert social scientists studying new conversations emerging out of social media?

That’s the list that businesses would like to have.

3rd of secret social media that is being kept from you

Save the cost of the carpets

And the 3rd well-kept secret of social media is that it saves us the cost of wearing out the carpets.

In short, the story goes like this. Social media attracts more ‘window-shoppers’. The window-shoppers hopefully include surprise visits from people outside our target market. We have more people wearing out the carpets and not buying anything. They are also people who are different from our typical customers. To extend the analogy, let’s say they bring mud in on their boots too.

So is social media a good thing. If we have more people who look-see but who don’t buy, do we want them? Aren’t carpets rather expensive?

Yes they are. But in the virtual world, carpets are fairly cheap. But that is not the real point.  In the virtual world, if you are smart, people make carpets for each other.

Let your customers weave the carpet

In a conventional company, we’d be most unhappy if people came to our shop just to party with their friends. That’s because they are using facilities that cost us money. We figure it is cheaper to advertise “off the premises” in magazines and TV than in the shop itself.

In social media, hosting a party costs as lot less. Sometimes it costs us almost nothing per person because the first person invites the second and the second the third, etc.

Let your management report reflect the carpet weaving operation

It is so obvious to anyone in social media but our reports don’t always make this clear.

  • Attracting window-shoppers has negligible cost.
  • If we are smart, we looking out for unusual newcomers. We are using the window-shoppers to help us understand how our market morphs and mutates. We are in business when we understand our market as it is, not how we want it to be.
  • And if we are really smart, our ‘window’ morphs and mutates with the market so people see what they want to see and find what they want to find.

That’s what our reports and metrics should be reflecting.

  • The cost per visitor
  • The changing nature of the market
  • The way we are responding spontaneously to changes in the market and those of our goods and service that our window-shoppers find attractive.

Now, I told you the secrets for free. I’d be happy to know what you think of them!

1st secret that social media marketers have been keeping to themselves

Welcome to the first of the secrets social media marketers don’t tell you. Your job is not to get bigger. Your job is to change your market entirely!  Read on, and tell me if you agree that social media marketers have been oddly silent in this regard!

Conventional marketing requires massive numbers

The industrial age works on size. To make things cheap, we must make a lot. To make a profit from things that are cheap, we must sell a lot.

Competition is fierce. Look-a-likes are everywhere and the consumer is dazzled by choice and confused by the advertising that is in their face where ever they look.

It’s a vicious circle. To be noticed, we must get out there and compete with other advertising. So we add some more. And the competition is ramped up.

In the end, consumers learn to blank out and pay no attention to us.

Marketers are smart; they look for qualified customers

Marketers are on to this problem and they try to find ‘qualified customers’. They try to pay attention to people who have self-selected in some way.  So they sell us a loyalty card and once they have our email address, they bombard us with emails for ever after.

Google gives us free email. Then they serve adverts to match the content of our messages.

Both Google and Marketers are very numbers oriented and they very clinically track the number of ads we click and the emails we open (did you know that?). Google is happy with a 0.5% click through rate (CTR). They are happy if 1 out of 200 partially qualified customers responds to an ad and clicks on it.

It seems we open 2 to 3% of marketing ad that are sent to us. The rest are deleted unopened.

Social media marketers are even smarter; they know we listen to our friends

Social media works on a simple principle. We are more likely to open an email sent by friend than by a  company. Our open rate might even go up to 10%! (Do you leave 90% of email from friends unopened? It seems people do.)

Even with this ‘unopen’ rate, the increase from 0.5% to 2% to 10% is large enough to make the social media effect, or echo chamber effect, very interesting to marketers.

Why these tactics aren’t the whole story

These three tactics

  • Do more. Get more
  • Talk to people who are interested. They buy more
  • Get people to bring their friends. Half the selling is done by a friend’s recommendations

are good, but not enough. This is why.

We have worked hard to get more people. We carefully talk only to people already interested in us.  And they bring their friends.  I am all for focus and specialization but our market is getting smaller and smaller.

And it will continue to get smaller. Our personal networks and habits are changing continually. Slowly, but continually. We shed friends and gain friends the way we shed our skins. Slowly, but surely.

Social media marketers are oddly quiet about the way we replenish and refresh our networks.  This is where I think we should pay more attention.

An example from classical marketing

Coca-cola, the masters of classical marketing don’t change their product from decade to decade (lest its consumers revolt as they once did).  Nonetheless, they continually renew their relationship with the market.

Long before we we gave Gen Y a name, Coca-cola had worked out their character and formulated their market response.

They also continually look for new channels. I remember the day they put a cool box onto the mini-buses that work the streets of Johannesburg. Coca-cola have people whose sole job is to find new channels. That’s what social media should be doing!

What we learn from classical marketing that social media marketers have kept quiet

Yes, it is cool to expand our current customer base. Yes, it is cool to strengthen our market with connections between customers. Yes, it is cool to listen to what our customers are saying and to give them what they want.

It is also smart to add change to constancy. We should also ask whom of our visitors are new – not only in name but in character and need. We should challenge our social media analysts to come up with something like a new channel – something refreshingly surprising about the market.

  • What do we understand that we never understood before?
  • Who has come window shopping who never came before?

Social media marketers have been holding out on us. Our job is not only to get more customers – tough as that might be.  Our job is to map the changing landscape. I haven’t seen any metrics yet that report change.  That’s where the value is.

Next of the three secrets tomorrow!