Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What does it mean to be "social media smart"?

My recent posts highlight a discussion that continues among social
media aficionados: what does it mean to be smart about social media
from a marketing perspective? What does it mean for a company to "get"
social media?

To answer this question, I'd like to step back for a minute and
discuss how social media has changed the marketing environment.
Fundamentally, it has augmented the feedback loop coming from
customers and other stakeholders to companies. In the past, marketing
was all about broadcasting. Mass media. Blowing messages out as
loudly and as broadly as possible. Feedback came in dribs and drabs;
certainly customers would comment during the buying process, but
concerted feedback only came when a company was willing and able to
pay for market research, host focus groups, etc. In short, the
conversation was predominantly one way--from the company to the

Enter social media. Now consumers have a medium whereby they can
provide feedback at their discretion. It can be targeted directly at
the company of their choice, or it can be a shout from the
mountaintops into cyberspace. At any rate, it is noise to which many
companies are not accustomed, and to which they are similarly ill
prepared to manage.

So the real question is not whether or not a company "gets" social
media. It is whether or not a company is willing to have an ongoing
conversation with their customers and other stakeholders. If they are
willing, then they will eventually get social media, because right now
it's the best tool they have to engage in that conversation. If they
don't, then they won't. And for the moment I won't presume to judge
whether or not avoidance or those conversations is in the best
interest of those companies, because I do think there are other
considerations to evaluate before making that judgement. More about
that in a future post.

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