Are you still “advertising” instead of “connecting” in a social media marketing world?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the advent of social media marketing means advertising should be thrown out the window. For one thing, it’s unclear how to measure results of SMM. For another, it takes a lot of time to do it well, and time is money.

Advertising will always have a place in supporting sales and marketing efforts. But the social media model of relationship-building has caused advertisers to change their tune. Now many are saying “What can I do to help you as an individual?” instead of “Hey, everybody, buy this stuff.”

Shifting my ad-agency-trained mind from “shouting from the rooftops” (ad-think) to “engaging in relationships” with prospects (social media consciousness) has proven to be vastly harder than I thought it would be. Maybe others have found it so, too.

But we reinventors really shouldn’t feel blind-sided by the change. There were foreshadowings of the SMM “relationship” mindset ages before SMM was invented.

Think small.

Think small.

• VW: Think Small, Build Big Loyalty Groups
Look at the VW “Think Small” campaign. It created a humble, lovable personality for the Beetle that began to engage potential customers in a relationship. Beetle owners in the 60s were united in their non-conformity (ironically), and their fierce devotion to the little car. The ability to repair your own Bug became a mark of distinction among Classicists. (See “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”) VW owners became a fan club of a sort. Today, they’d have a LinkedIn group and a Meetup.

• The Forced-March Approach to Advertising
But VW was the exception. For the most part, advertising in the olden days was marching the prospect briskly from Awareness to Interest to Desire to Action. The AIDA approach was so direct and simple. And Rosser Reeves’ Unique Selling Proposition (USP) formula told you exactly how to do it.

• The World Isn’t Flat, It’s Fragmented
Only set formulas don’t work in today’s increasingly segmented world. They worked better when the whole country’s population watched just three TV networks, and product choices were more limited. Today, there are dozens and dozens of different cable TV networks, products and activities for people to choose from. If you shout from the wrong rooftop, you’ll miss them entirely. So how do you reach the right people with the most effective messages? By market segmentation.

• Market Segmentation: From Age Brackets to Touchy-Feely Groups
Until a decade ago, market segmentation was simply using age brackets (18-24, 25-34, 35-49, 50-65, 65+) to predict people’s interests. Today, the population is more diverse, so psychographics (lifestyle segmentation) defines groups in a more touchy-feely way. The Belongers, the Achievers and the Emulators/Wanna-Bes require different psychological advertising approaches. It’s “The Me Generation” all over again. Only now, every generation is all about Me.

• Enter Social Media Marketing
That being the case, it was inevitable that social media marketing would be invented. You had the Web, and you had a fragmented, diverse audience, but now you had ways of telling who your best prospects were by which websites they visited. Great. Only these prospects were an impatient and finicky bunch. If you tried to “shout from the rooftops” about your product, they’d simply leave the room (abandon your website or quit following your tweets.)

How to attract and keep people interested in your website or SMM messages? For websites, “Make it sticky” was the watchword 10 years ago. Tailor website content to the interests of your best prospects and keep them coming back by changing it frequently. That way, you would always be top-of-mind when it came time for your prospects to buy. If that time ever came.

• Then, Enter Monetized Websites
But building relationships that way took a long time to pay off, so monetized websites evolved. Now, many sites are just some text surrounded by ads, which website owners hope the audience will click on and let him/her collect a few cents per click. And thus evolved “crappy content writing” to feed the gaping maw of the Web, and many companies like Demand Studios and Examiner.com, who make billions paying writers paltry amounts to crank out SEO-optimized filler between the ads.

• Crappy Writing Won’t Cut It Long-Term
But this fad is bound to fizzle. First, it’s hard to get halfway-decent content in mass quantities. Cheap writers have to write quickly, and quality hardly matters. All the site owners care about is getting you there to click on the ads. But if the content is irrelevant to the readers’ needs or poorly written, they’re gone in a flash, and your pay-per-click scheme is foiled. Second, the Web is boiling with these kinds of sites. What makes people want to engage with you, and not someone else, by following your site or blog?

• Back to Building Relationships
You get them to establish relationships with your company and with each other by joining your e-mail list, having an RSS feed of your content, posting profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and *connecting.* You provide truly useful content, preferably well-written and… well, engaging. And by the way, whenever possible, you try to network in person. Offer to help people out, even if it’s just to recommend a chiropractor or dog-sitter. People remember people who provide help, whether it’s professional or personal.

• Feel Like You’re Caught in a Web? You Are. Make the Most of It.
The term “Web” now means a complex network of relationships between sellers and buyers, between friends and business associates, and among members of special-interest groups (like tattoo artists), and so on. Relationships are vital to expanding a marketer’s reach.

• Give ‘Em What They Want (Not Just What You Want to Sell)
Marketers need to offer content their prospects want and need, not just “push the merch.” It’s tricky. It takes time, effort and an understanding of which SMM tools will work for specific products or services. Not every company needs a website, blog, newsletter and Facebook page. Advertisers who understand the complexities of marketing on the Web will figure out each client’s unique needs and configure an andvertising and SMM plan that fits them, not simply throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.

For more about this, read this article. Here’s a quote:

“… advertising agencies have never cared about serving the customer. They care about making the sale. Advertising is most often used to drive customers to purchase, not care for them after the fact.”

Interesting subject, and one that’s sure to be around for a long time to come.

  1. Vada Cromuel says:

    Hi there, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam feedback? If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or anything you can suggest? I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so any support is very much appreciated.

  2. liz says:

    I get a lot of spam, but my WordPress site has a spam filter on it: Akismet. It holds anything that might be spam until I can approve it or mark it as spam. I hope your comment isn’t spam. If it isn’t, good luck!

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