Why Social is Different (and How to Adapt Marketingwise)

Jul 23, 2014

Every company understands the necessity of listening and engaging with customers on social media. But have most companies grasped how to effectively market to them on that channel?

As noted in the Frost & Sullivan Market Insight, From Mass Marketing to Social Marketing, companies may be challenged in marketing on that channel. Here’s why, from this report and from other research:

* Companies are not used to engaging and interacting with a mass, but also a targeted audience, and a “target of one”. Companies are still conditioned to “message-out”.

* Shorter, colloquial conversations that run a greater risk of misinterpretation.

* Applying metrics to track performance, results, and to determine ROI is very difficult to accomplish as there is a lack of universal metrics across social platforms.

* Companies can’t use audience size and length of engagement because there are active and passive audiences, including audience members (like me) who view social sites through other Web sites. This last category is probably bigger than most people or businesses think.

* Companies cannot generally use social media as a direct sales channel because it is open, hence confidential information cannot be revealed, and because the social media culture frowns on this practice. But a new Facebook “buy” feature may change that attitude if it is unobtrusive and secure.

* While customers may be buying as a result of social marketing programs, the conversions are often difficult to track. For example, a customer may have purchased an item after reading a Tweet, but the seller may not be able to identify the direct link.

To market on social media effectively, companies need to step back and look at social media for what it is, which is a gathering place, like an event, meeting, or a reception. The same social practices, conventions, and mores that apply when you attend in-person also apply while on social media:

* You listen politely to conversations, analyze what is being said (and not said) and, at the right moment, you introduce yourself.

* When the others allow you to speak, you engage with them in their conversation before talking about yourself, making your points, and introducing your topics. All the while you are picking up “data points” about the others’ careers, interests, passions, demographics, status, and social influence.

* Only if the others express a direct interest in you and your points do you deep-dive into them. And if there are one or two people who are especially interested in what you say you go to one side or follow up with them later “off-line”. Twitter solutions, like from HipLogiq, performs lead generation with social conversations. They capture and analyze Tweets for desires and wants, such as “I’m hungry for a burger”, and respond with targeted offers.

* Finally, if you find that group is not listening to you then you move on to another group.

There is so much information that is exchanged in a simple conversation that to sort it out and to respond accurately and appropriately in real-time with analytics solutions is extremely challenging. I like IBM’s social media analytics solutions in part because IBM continually strives to bring machine intelligence closer to human intelligence, such as through its Watson cognitive processing technology.

Once companies see and understand the social dynamics in-person they should apply them to social media marketing and social media in general, with the right tools. If they do then they might be pleasantly surprised with the results.


Brendan Read


Brendan Read is Senior Industry Analyst with over 25 years’ experience covering business, communications, staffing, and technology. He has worked in, prepared reports, and blogged on a wide range of topics including customer contact, CX, CRM, IoT, social media, supply chain, and BC/DR. He also has backgrounds in construction, manufacturing, materials, resource extraction, site selection, and transportation. He examines the broad economic, environmental, innovation, political, and social mega trends, and their impacts on businesses, markets, and society.

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