Social Media Warning Labels: It’s not “just another channel…”

Numerous skeptics and cynics want to reduce Social Media sites to “just another channel.”  They will say things like”don’t buy into the hype,” “it’s no big deal” and “it’s just a passing fad.”

I’ll agree with “don’t buy into the hype.”  Forget the hype.  Sit down and think about how social media is different. Understand why it’s different.  Take the time to dig deeper than “we NEED a Facebook Fan Page.”  Get to the point where you understand why you should have any of these sites.

Anyone that calls it “just another channel” or “a passing fad,” pays no respect to the unique opportunities that Social Media provides and have overwhelmingly missed the point.

The Old School Lens

The people who perceive Twitter, Facebook YouTube and the rest as “just another” are looking at it through an old school lens.  They look at these sites as broadcast channels.  To them, Facebook is a place to post ads, coupons and the newest product line, company announcements and other one way communications.

These old school marketers are exceptionally interested in numbers: “how many followers do we have, we need to get more fans.” These old school marketers have been trained in the art of direct mail and email marketing and cold calling.  They expect a certain percentage to respond or take action. That is their metric.  If they beat the industry average of 1% response, they are satisfied.  And that, is the difference.

Customers are not just numbers

The new era of marketing does not play these games with numbers.  We (new marketers) would rather not annoy and bombard the other 99% to get that 1%.  The new approach is to find that 1% that is interested and engage with them, create a better and more personal experience. We see that as an approach that will create the potential to activate that 1% to influence some of that other 99%.

We recognize that never before have the customers been a greater marketing force than the company.  The customer has ALWAYS been a part of the marketing of a company, they were simply less empowered.

The changing face of Word of Mouth

Prior to blogs, Facebook like buttons, Disqus commenting systems and Twitter, the only form of negative press that mattered was print journalism, radio and television.  Word of mouth was important but it wasn’t a readily accessible conversation that could be tapped into by anyone with an internet connection.  Back then, the audience was simply an audience.  But as Brian Solis pointed out just yesterday, now audiences have audiences.

Each person now represents a possible node in a massive information and interest network that can spread not just locally, not just nationally, but globally.  Our social graphs are accessible and interconnected.  Information can spread like brush fire and is often publicly viewable.

One false step and word will spread, see Kenneth Cole.  Do something right and the same thing can happen, see @Comcastcares case studies.  How you interact with your customers is more important than ever.

The key word is SOCIAL

Social Media is the default term that we all use to describe these new tools.  Sure it feels a little played out, I’m partly guilty of overusing it but it’s the moniker we have all apparently agreed to use to talk about this subject.  What I find interesting is that the old school marketers and other cynics miss, or mis-use, a crucial part of that term: “Social.”  The word social implies a different relationship.

Why do so many people follow celebrities on Twitter?  Because they want to feel like they have a direct line.  It’s personal.  I can send a message to Shaquille O’Neal, he might answer it.

As a business if you aren’t using these channels to directly connect with your customer then you have missed the point entirely.  It’s not to say that there is no place for broadcast in Social Media, there definitely is.  The X Factor in the biggest success stories is the involvement, engagement and communication directly with fans, followers, customers and leads.

So the next time you hear the skeptic, the cynic or the old school marketer dismiss Social Media think about yourself.  Think about whether YOU like to be “just a number” in a game of percentages.

Think who you trust more, a generic e-blast or a friend of yours that endorses a product or service?