Hanging around the virtual street corner

IBM Institute for Business Value’s 40-page white paper is worth the download and read for one simple reason: it challenges your thinking about social media.

Many companies embark on social media with the Nike philosophy: “just do it.” But that doesn’t cut it in today’s “engagement” environment. According to a piece in Infoworld Daily, corporate focus on social technologies has been in “marketing organizations that use it to monitor what customers are saying about the company, trying to influence customer views. The buzz word is “reputation management,” so companies think that by adding Twitter, Facebook, etc. to traditional advertising and marketing channels they are “doing social media.” According to IBM’s paper, that’s missing the mark.

IBM surveyed more than 1,000 consumers worldwide and interviewed 350 executives and found out companies assume customers are seeking them out on social sites to feel connected to their brand. Wrong! Customers are more interested in getting tangible value, so the white paper suggests businesses are confusing their own desire for customer intimacy with what should be the real motivations for engaging customers: creating value in THEIR eyes, not our own!

There’s been a lot of content generated about this since this blog appeared. For example, digital initiatives no longer on periphery, but core to driving retail growth and customer engagement according to this report by Deloitte http://goo.gl/dLtSL. These “touch points” in the digital path drive people to engage – or not engage. Marketers can no longer just “think” about these things; they have to do something, not for the sake of doing it, but for their very survival. On a recent webinar for ad agencies, a traditional ad firm weighed in with the question: “What social media channels should I be entering into to shift my revenue platform?” The answer I typed into the question box was: “None. They are the walking dead and will be out of business in less than a year.”

Because as Matt Creamer argues in Ad Age, the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge of and engagement with customers. http://goo.gl/qx06X. But it is engagement on THEIR terms – not the advertiser’s! Forbes produced an interesting report entitled The New Rules of Engagement: CMOs Rethink Their Marketing Mix (http://goo.gl/RIZft) which is equally good reading with the IBM piece.

Because if IBM’s white paper is true — and our on experiences with our clients’ participation in social media reflects the truth of it — 45 percent who do interact with brands say they need to feel “a company is communicating honestly before they will interact.” So the real question isn’t about adding the social channels to your arsenal of tactics; the real question is defining “honestly” not as bragging about your latest stand on an issue, but rather, REALLY doing something meaningful and of value for your customers. That’s hard work, and requires a kind of new thinking all around. We think IBM’s paper is worth the time to consider their findings and to start that thinking. Thank you IBM! Get the download: intrln.com/ibm. And then let’s talk about it! Go to http://intrln.com/contact. Thank you!

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