Why Social Media Marketing is Hard for Corporations

Geoff Livingston over at The Buzz Bin has an interesting post about how savoir-faire is needed in social media marketing, and how hard it is for companies to be genuine. He says, correctly, that relationship building is about trust and perhaps this is why the Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) of the world are having a hard time grasping social media.

That’s all true, and easy to say, until you’ve been in charge of marketing in an organization. Suddenly, how “it could be so hard” becomes obvious. The system around the CMO has not historically valued long, patient, frank, two-way dialogue. Far from it.

Advertising maintains its appeal to the CMO because he/she can control and measure it, you can buy as much “noise” as you want. PR has similarities, too. But with social media, the people you’re “targeting” have to want to talk about you. When you work for a social media agency, you learn pretty quickly that “targets” don’t have to want to talk about your client’s product. Or they may not want to today. But the CMO is being asked to move product—today.

Over the last 40 years we’ve all gotten away from the true “marketplace” mentality (like the picture here…) in which an exchange is negotiated via two-way communication). Professional marketers were trained to talk. They were the “spinners”, the ones who could come up with the talking points, the unique selling proposition. Whether a customer was ready to listen wasn’t a big concern. We just had to figure out what shows they were watching and hope they stayed on the couch.

Now, fairly suddenly, the “marketplace” concept is coming back through social media, and people are talking about the principles of community building. Accurate, all of it, but also a sea change. I have a Masters Degree in Public Communications that I got only about 11 years ago. We never once talked about community building. We basically talked message packaging…

Social media marketing is coming, more slowly than maybe it should. And big marketers are used to having control and doing big campaigns. That means they are going to make big mistakes. Should we call them on those mistakes? Abso-lutely. That’s what we do on this site (Example 1. Example 2.). But we also respect the ones that have their toes in the water, because some of them are getting it right (Example 1. Example 2.). And when they get it right, it makes communicating with these companies that much better. Hang in there.

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