Marketers in a Social Network World

Consider what a marketer’s role is: deliver more customers/clients/purchases. You can talk about education and building community and brand management, but there are really only a few metrics that ultimately will get a marketer noticed:

  • Increase in sales.
  • Good media coverage.
  • Healthy sales/customer pipeline.

Am I right? (I’m not a marketer by trade or experiences. I’m a hack who sometimes gets put in the position of helping people market.)

If so, we have to consider what it’s going to be like for you as a marketer, being told to try out things like Facebook and Twitter and other social networks to do what you’re tasked with doing. One problem is that there are obvious benefits to using online methods to market, and yet, it’s not as easy as just blasting your traditional messages via electronic channels. here are some thoughts.

You’re the Visitor

In some cases, newly arriving marketers are quick to dive in and and get their message heard. They make a few cursory passes around the “neighborhood” and then set to work talking about their product or service. The problem is, even though it feels like this new neighborhood is filled with random people, lots of us know each other, and we don’t know you. We understand the pace, the patter, the social norms of this environment. Coming in and getting down to business is frowned upon in almost all cases.

Get to know some people. It does take a little more time, but the results are better. I know plenty of people who could pitch me their new project without me feeling weird or put out by them. Why? Because we’ve already gone through the effort of getting to know each other. I assume that what they’re pitching will be of interest to me, and I trust that they’ll be straightforward with what they need, while being sensitive to their relationship with me.

In the end, people who pitch me well get what they seek, and I do even more than a “cold call” would expect, because by that point, I feel invested in the outcome because I know and appreciate the person who pitched me.

And when the pitch doesn’t match my interests, no harm no foul. Try doing that with a “cold” dive into a social network and see what you get.

Collaboration and Two Way Roads

We do a lot of collaboration in social media and social networks. Sometimes, it’s about your cause. Other times, it’s about mine. Even the non-marketers are marketing for attention. Make a point of helping out others often. Try to be there when they need you, and Digg their story, chip in the $10, or do whatever else needs doing.

People remember those who help out. And then when the time comes, it’s a little more likely that people will be inclined to help.

Is this “quid pro quo?” Maybe. But it’s very tacit and explicit, and people who are collaborating understand that it’s a give-and-take relationship.

When you come without that kind of investment already built into the community, you have to spend some time sharing and doing what else needs doing, as well.

Shared Value

Marketing is used to the idea of giving something to get something. It’s not very different in the social networks world. Only, really consider the value before making the offer. If you’re marketing something that has a fan base, give ways for people to have access to something (give Sony pictures fans cool games to play, like they did with 30 Days of Night’s vampires game on Facebook). Give people who love your software a badge to place on their site, if they want, but make a value link back to the person displaying such a badge.

In short, in the universe of social networks, it’s not enough to hit people over the head with your message. Instead, the goal shifts towards finding supporters and giving them something of value, on one front.

Wooing Non-Customers

Social networks afford marketers the opportunity to learn lots about people. You can read Facebook profiles and understand what people like, who they know, what they support, etc. This means it’s a great environment to find out about people who aren’t engaged with your product, or who use a competing product.

If you’re a smart company like the guys from Zoho, you have search terms and triggers set up for when people mention their products, and I’m going to bet that they have terms set up on certain competing products, as well. (I’m not singling them out, but I’ve met the Zoho team, and have talked with them online – on my blog plenty of times and also in email – and I think they’re a great example of people paying attention to their non-customer base, as well as those who are already believers).

With this knowledge, you have the chance to build relationships, and offer opportunities for people to try out a product they might not be currently using. Don’t be pushy about it, but by paying good attention to blog posts and profile information and the flow of words on Twitter, a marketer can also find their non-customers identifying themselves over and over again.

Because these social networks capture data that isn’t usually considered – watercooler-like conversations, for instance- you have an opportunity that doesn’t exist in the offline world. How you execute on it is the real question. Will you be ready?

Marketers Can Do Magic on Social Networks

But only smart ones. Those who choose to roll their existing methods onto the web will find themselves writing articles in magazines about how the web is a horrible place to market. For the rest of you (and I mostly mean YOU), this is a great place to start out learning, and then grow into being a transplant to this new community. In no time, you’ll be one of the gang, and hopefully, the metrics that matter most to your organization will be growing in the right ways, by way of your efforts.

The Social Media 100 is a project by Chris Brogan dedicated to writing 100 useful blog posts in a row about the tools, techniques, and strategies behind using social media for your business, your organization, or your own personal interests. Swing by [chrisbrogan.com] for more posts in the series, and if you have topic ideas, feel free to share them, as this is a group project, and your opinion matters.

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