Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Hate "Social Media Marketing" and You Should Too

I have come to hate the term,"social media marketing."  It has become a loaded term that implies an improper usage that can be detrimental to businesses who attempt to use social media to advertise any and every thing to their customers.  While social media can be a powerful part of a business' outreach and marketing effort to its customers, thinking of it as simply another advertising outlet leads many businesses to establish accounts with Facebook, Twitter and other sites and use them no differently than email, newspapers, radio or television advertising.  If the only thing a business does is post ads in their social media streams, they have failed to realize the true power of the medium and are destined to fail in their social media efforts, and will eventually come to see it as a waste of time, money and resources.

Individuals are bombarded daily with ads- on television, radio, the internet, newspapers, magazines, billboards, etc..  It is far easier to opt out of ads within social media streams than anywhere else.  They can stop following you if they see you as an "advertiser."  Once they stop following your business, it is nearly impossible to get them to follow you again.

There is only one place and time that I know of where people want to see advertisements- the Super Bowl.  Those ads are creative, exciting and fun.  I've watched as people will sit through the ads and then go get food or take bathroom breaks during the game.  Some of the most creative Super Bowl ads are beer ads.  Who can forget the Budweiser frogs?

Well, social media is not the Super Bowl and you are not Budweiser.  People don't anticipate seeing your ad in their social media streams.  They don't want marketing.  They want conversations.

As I have given social media presentations to businesses and business associations around the country, then subsequently watched what they do online, I have come to the conclusion that we need to rebrand the term "social media marketing."  I prefer the phrase "social media engagement."  This more clearly defines the way in which businesses should be using social media- as a way to reach out to, and engage with, customers and potential customers.

This doesn't mean that social media can't be used to advertise a sale, feature a product, or offer a service.  It means that a business should first be listening to what their customers are saying, sharing information and knowledge with them, and engaging their customers in a conversation.  This kind of interaction naturally leads to conversations about products and services.  As customers are more engaged with a business through conversation, they will be more receptive to advertising and marketing messages.

The most important word in social media is "social."  Be social.  Be engaging.  You will find more interested followers and fans, and ultimately, a greater payoff in your marketing efforts.

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