Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Social Media has to be about something

What fascinates me about all the companies that are rushing to have a social media presence is that many of them are simply overlook the fact that social media is a means to an end. The users of Facebook, or Bebo, or any other social network are not interested in Facebook per se, but rather their friends, or topics of interest, through Facebook, etc. Corporate marketing departments are obviously obsessed with the product they are selling, as they should be, but can forget that many of their customers probably aren't that interested. So even if they grasp the key concept of interaction, allowing the customer tangible input, which is vital to a successful social media campaign, they still often overlook the equally important question 'Why would the customer want to?' I recall reading some years ago that Coke set up a social network for customers to share their experiences and ideas about Coke, but why would they want to? I like drinking coke, but in day to day life I'm not that interested in talking about. This is not to malign Coke, this was before many other companies were even aware of social media, and obviously first movers are going to make some mistakes - I'm not sure whatever happened to that. Coke have done some great social media stuff since then, particularly some great viral videos.

If you have a company selling a product, presumably you have identified the market you're selling it too - ie the group of people whose wants or needs are being met by your product. Unless the product looms large as a cultural icon already, like an Apple iPod or Nike shoe, then people probably aren't going to want to spend much time talking about it. To successfully utilise a social media campaign to draw attention to a product then, you need to essentially identify a new 'social' product, something that meets a social need and which you can tie to your actual product, like the Ford Fiesta Movement campaign, giving 'social agents', people with a personal mission, cars and getting them to share the results of their endeavours via social networks. With this type of thinking you move beyond your core fans to get average people talking about your product - because you provide them with something in return. It's a tricky balance, finding the social media need to match your product, but it's the only way to be truly successful, and hopefully more agencies will take up this approach.


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