Will Social Media Ruin Product Marketing?

As I’ve spent time with marketing directors and Veeps at various companies during the past few months, I’ve heard more and more the comment that, “social media is a nightmare.” Most of these people are old. As in over 30 years old or… even older!

So, the question I have asked myself is, “is the problem the people, or the technology?” I deal with both, and it’s a never dull topic of (self directed) conversation.

So, what’s the problem? Let’s do a bit of the old Ben Franklin, shall we?

Social Media Good:

  • instant news to your captive audience
  • faster than a telephone call
  • impersonal
  • facebook is the ultimate audience tool
  • seems to be inexpensive
  • lots of social media experts to hire

Social Media Bad:

  • impersonal
  • takes up a lot of the average day
  • most tweets are lame
  • facebook is the devil
  • turns out to be pricy, if done right
  • lots of wanna be social media experts

Well, that didn’t work out well. Let’s look at it this way – in terms of time management, it’s a totally different animal than what we did in business even five years ago. As it relates to marketing a product, that too has changed…

I spoke to a VP of marketing at one of our client partners and he told me that social media was creating a series of false metrics for his middle and lower level managers to attain, while the board of directors was giddy, but typically because of their personal use of Twitter with kids and grand kids. He was serious. “Now, we look to see how many people belong to our Twitter accounts,” he said. “It’s as if that’s more important than sales figures – and we don’t care who those people following us are.” Note to self: client does not or want to get it.

For me, that’s not understanding social media. That’s not using it the way it could be used. True, numbers speak volumes, and often, people are obsessed with data. At the same time, now we have data – and for me, the key point is that anyone can create the demand and build their own set of data. You don’t need to be the Very Big Corporation any longer.

The key point when using Twitter is: do you have something relevant about your product to share?

The key point with Facebook is: are you building an audience of customers or future customers?

Those are the issues that rule the social media business day for me.

I was having lunch with a different client and she was agog with the power of what his firm was able to do when collaborating with us. “I just love that we can create an ad, place it, and measure its success – all online and without killing any trees or making expensive media buys,” she told me. Note to self: Client totally gets it.

Direct mail is yesterday’s news. The US Post Office will need to reinvent itself or die.

But the real downside is this: there is so much media in play today that cutting thru the noise is a challenge.

The Internet provides access to a broad and often defined audience. But the playing field is also smaller in terms of traction for a product campaign. That means you need to be more creative, bolder, and willing to take certain kinds of risks relative to campaigns and branding efforts. The good news is that trees may get to live a bit longer.

A prospect I spoke with recently wanted to know why we were promoting an online survey product (R/com Survey Manager). Her contention was that products like Survey Monkey were fine, and nearly free.

Measurement is often without any personal contact. Google analytics and other research tools are interesting and useful. When they’re used as a single metric, it’s often a stepping stone to incomplete information and potentially poor decisions. Analysis of who is watching, reading, downloading, sticking, clicking and tapping is important. At the same time, companies that demonstrate significant growth and profitability often combine that data with live research. It’s important that metrics be limited to actionable and useful statistics, not just a lump of data.

Overall, the most important thing we can learn about social media and product marketing is that it’s different, it’s moving, and it’s moving fast. In the days of print and television, a campaign worked year over year. Today, capable marketers need to take many more chances than ever before. The magic and makes the media work is changing continually. As such, our marketing efforts are no longer as safe as they once were, but the opportunities for success are much higher as well.

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