The Blog

by Nat Duffy

Either you’re part of the conversation or you’re not.

“The reality is that social media are where the national conversation is taking place today—and either you’re part of that conversation or you’re not.” – Brian J. Dunn, CEO of Best Buy

I like Brian Dunn’s sober analysis of social media’s role in business. Today, social is simply a fact of life for marketers—full of tough challenges and potential rewards. It’s a space where the right customer experience can build lasting brand loyalty, but the wrong approach will be met with the sound of crickets, or worse, a pitchfork-wielding mob.

A recent survey of small business owners reveals some restlessness with social media as a marketing vehicle. Respondents were asked to rate the effectiveness of their social presence in generating site traffic. A minority of 29% declared satisfaction. While the survey is limited in scope, I think it reflects the challenges many marketers face as they create their own approach to social media. In their efforts, they’ve probably discovered a couple of things:

  1. If you treat social as a direct marketing vehicle, you’ll probably get a traditional DM response rate (that is to say, very low). Fact is, most consumers who “like” brands don’t believe they’ve given permission to be marketed to.
  2. Liking, friending and following create weak-tie relationships that don’t easily convert to increased commerce.

While there’s no formula for success in social media marketing, here are a few attributes of a successful effort.

  • The ability to create value from weak-tie relationships. The ease of use of social media increases participation, but not necessarily dedication or loyalty. You can’t ask too much or push too hard.
  • Good content is the message. Remember, your Facebook fan did not opt in to the relationship out of a love of marketing messages. They simply like you. Offer them news or product support and lay off the crass “monetization” plays.
  • Fits a business purpose. If you concede the first two points, your social media effort will probably not be about new customer acquisition. That’s ok. Start by listening, then concentrate on adding value to your current customer base. Cultivate them, bring them back, most of all, create positive experiences that motivate people to say nice things about you.

The social web has amplified the power of word-of-mouth and has changed the consumer’s decision-making model for good. A marketer’s traditional efforts to gain top-of-mind consideration can crash on the rocks of negative internet feedback or can be amplified by happy consumer advocates.

However you go about building your social media presence, make it responsive and relevant and direct it toward creating the positive word-of-mouth that drives business in the digital age and any other age.