Have you ever had that experience where you realize that you actually KNOW something, versus feeling like you’re still learning it? For instance, when you go from having to think which one is a G chord on a guitar and which one is a C (guitar players: did you just flash to a visualization of the positioning?), what does that feel like? That knowing?
When we learn, we train and practice and absorb and theorize and experience and all kinds of other little parts that form the whole of our understanding. There is a lot that goes into the practice of learning and knowing HOW to do something.
What if what you learned was wrong?
Or at least not what you need to get to the next level?
I’m not in any way a trained marketer. I’ve taken no courses whatsoever in the practice. I’ve never held the job title, nor have my efforts at any role where I’ve been paid involved, directly, marketing. And yet, some of you are already saying, “Oh, but we’re ALL marketers, Chris.” True. But you see the distinction, right? I’m not a marketer the same way someone who uses a hammer isn’t a carpenter.
I have a saying I use a lot lately: “bad marketing is bad.” This is to permit a little bit of credit to my friends in the profession and/or some others who I think do a great job of doing what they do. And yet, it’s true. And bad marketing is bad because it doesn’t have the same impact it used to have when we didn’t know any better.
Marketing is a Discipline: Social Media are Tools
Here’s where I’m going with this: marketers trying to come into social media and rapidly become versed in the tools and believe what they’re doing is social media, are probably doomed to a lot of pain and disappointment along the way. Marketers who come into social media and feel that these tools will deliver the same kinds of clean stats and clear cut wins and campaign thinking overall are doomed as well.
Marketing is a discipline with lots of emphasis on channel thinking, on campaigns, on message shaping, on control and covering all the bases.
Social media is a set of tools that permit regular people access to potential audiences of shared interest. These tools give voice, give preference, give rise to individuality, give flexibility, collaborative opportunity, and a whole lot of other things that don’t resemble traditional marketing the same way gym class felt absolutely nothing like social studies.
Marketers have tools. They understand what they do very well. They understand lead acquisition, and brand strategy, and all kinds of things that the folks who use social media tools could really do to understand before knocking.
Social Media is A Bug’s Life
The movement behind these tools, or the energy that these tools open up, or the way we use these tools when we practice social media is something utterly different from the effects generated by traditional marketing. It’s all in the aggregate, and the ability for us, the “little guy,” to speak up to the universe in ways both positive and righteously indignant. In short, ants.
At the end of A Bug’s Life, the main character, Flick, finally convinces all the ants that they have to stand up to the grasshoppers who’ve kept them repressed for years. It’s the same story Hollywood loves to tell, and that we love to see. The little guy stands up, and everyone outweighs the power of the few.
It’s what happens when we all have a voice, and distribution, and the ability to get together and say something. It’s when we get that rare chorus moment instead of the dissonance we often muster. It CAN be something amazing.
Know When To Use Which
If you’re Burger King and you’re looking to influence whether I go there or not, use plain old marketing. It’s just fine. It’s the right tool for the job. So is advertising. You don’t HAVE to use social media for that.
But, if you’re Burger King and you want to understand me, to get what’s really going on inside my head, and know what we have in common, then THAT is where social media can be useful. Talk to me. Get to know me. Ask me about me and the things that aren’t about you.
Can you see how weird that would feel if given to a traditional marketer to cover?
New Things to Learn
We have lots to learn about the tools we’re using, and we all could stand to learn how various disciplines could choose to employ these tools in different ways. Further, we should learn more about the disciplines, those of us hurling stones at marketers without first understanding the value of good marketing.
Here’s one: I know for a fact, a money-in-my-pocket fact, that the difference between good marketing and bad marketing makes absolute financial impact on an organization. I can tell you because I’ve seen it flat out. Bad marketing can cost MILLIONS. Those of you who know how to do a value-based sales pitch (and I know only a little thanks to an awesome talk with Jeremiah one night in Cambridge), you will further understand how this impact is meaningful.
Now, as social media types, and would-be community builders, and people hacking where others have built professional practices that make impact and difference, we (social media) have some great opportunities to educate and share and pick up the best of marketing from good marketers and trade it for what you know about employing social media tools and the Bug’s Life mindset to help marketers understand the value of a good interaction with customers.
Which of those can YOU contribute? What do you want to learn? Where are you finding your biggest challenges with all this?
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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Photo credit, cadmanof50s