The most under-rated aspect of social media marketing

Translation: "Reading this blog makes us don native costumes and dance with exuberance"

Do you have an “in-the-moment marketing strategy?”

If you don’t, you could be missing one of the biggest opportunities of the social web!

I had lunch recently with a marketing manager for a major TV cable network and we talked about the evolution of social media marketing at his company. He had a couple of quotes that illustrate the importance of reactive, or in-the-moment marketing …

“When I started working in social media marketing, it was basically just me.  Now everybody wants a piece and there is a battle over ownership. I feel like I have three bosses right now.”

“I gather data on our social media activities and the executives want it in a nice shiny report they use to plan programming for the next season.”

“The lawyers are getting nervous about so many people participating. They are working on regulations on who can be on the web and exactly what they can say.”

“We have a huge Facebook following for the network and I’d like to create individual efforts for different programs but just don’t have the resources to address it.”

I’m sure some of these growing pains sound familiar, but there is also a common theme here and a potential storm cloud for my friend that may not be obvious to him.

One of the hallmark characteristics of marketing on the social web is the reactive, opportunistic nature of engagement.

Traditional media: Take out an ad and hope customers buy stuff.

New media: Watch real-time customer, prospect and competitor behavior and react as it is happening. This requires people to be tuned in and provided with the authority to take action as they see an opportunity. For example:

  • Authorize employees to solve a customer Twitter complaint on the spot
  • Watch for complaints about competitors and act aggressively and immediately to fill the gap
  • Listen for un-met and under-served customer needs and adapt accordingly

So let’s get back to that storm cloud at the cable TV network.   Sure, there are the inevitable politics at work — and they’ll sort out — but this marketing organization doesn’t realize that they’re sub-optimizing their reactive marketing system:

  • Fight over “ownership” of social media marketing will muddy accountability and authority.
  • A big shiny report will only end up sitting on a shelf someplace, and even if management actually reads it, the market could have shifted dramatically by then. Why not monitor progress and reaction episode by episode?
  • A social media policy is necessary but burdensome legal approvals could crush in-the-moment innovation.  Allow for some mistakes.
  • One way to have more resources for individual celebrities and programs is to deputize more people and get them involved to interact on their own without the marketing department’s intervention.

Is your organization still in traditional command-and-control mode or are they adopting to the new opportunities of the real-time social web?

A 3 minute lesson in traditional versus social brand marketing

I found this little animation to be entertaining and instructive and wanted to share with you.  I have no connection with the producers of this video, Scholz & Friends.  They just did a good job and I wanted to say so. : )  Three minutes well-spent.

Apologies for the annoying Google ads on this video.  Not my idea.

Don’t you think this makes an effective point about media noise?

An easy way to explain the social web. Really!

I’m often asked to explain the social web … in three minutes or less.  Difficult!   But I’ve come up with a simple way to describe the importance of social media in my presentations that might be useful to you when you meet those people who want you to explain all this stuff like “Tweeter and Facebox.”

And it’s easy to remember:  Evolution, revolution, contribution.


Here is a brief history of communications:

  • Men on fast horses
  • Town squares
  • Printing press
  • Mail
  • Telephone
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Internet
  • Email
  • Mobile
  • Social web

If you break it down like this, it makes an impression that this is really the next stage in how people communicate.  Now pay attention!


So what makes this unique?  What pushes the social web into the same rarefied category as the printing press or television?  Two things:

1) This is two-way communication. Everything else on the list above is one-way.  The message isn’t being controlled by an author or a news anchor or an advertising executive. People are talking back. That’s intense.

2) For the first time in human history, we have access to free, global, real-time communication. There is no other word to characterize the implication of this development but “profound.”


The distinguishing characteristic of the social web that most resonates with people is “contribution.” People are the publishers.  If the content is coming from common people it’s the social web. What are people publishing?

  • Ideas
  • Videos
  • Opinions
  • Criticisms
  • Commentary
  • Entertainment
  • Everybody publishes … including folks vitally important to you like employees, customers, competitors, partners, suppliers, people who love you, and people who hate you.

… so don’t you think you should be out there listening to these people?  Learning from them? Serving them?  And in the case of your competitor, pummeling them?

So this is the easiest way I’ve found to describe the power, importance and uniqueness of the social web in three minutes or less.   What do you think? What did I miss?

Wait a minute. It’s not about engagement after all!

I’ve been invited to be a presenter on an upcoming B2B Blogging webinar (announcement forthcoming!) so I’ve been studying many company blogs that I regard as best practices.  As I moved from site to site, I noticed something surprising.  There were very few comments.  In fact, there were virtually none.  It was kind of an “a-ha moment.”

As an example, I would direct your attention to General Electric, a gold standard for corporate blogging.  Their site is a glorious mix of art, entertainment, news and inspiration. GE combines beautiful writing, graphics and video to tell their story in a compelling way. And there are no comments anywhere.

Does the fact that there is no engagement on this forum mean GE is failing?  If one of the largest and best-managed companies in the world can’t create a community through their blog, how do we hold out hope for our own clients and company blogs?

As I’ve stewed on this issue, I’ve determined that we need to re-think the whole notion of engagement on company blogs.  In fact, we need to forget about it in most cases.  There are two reasons why.

Nobody’s home

I am blessed with a vibrant, intellectual, caring community on {grow}.  It’s not unusual for me to receive more comments in a day than GE and many corporate blogs receive in a year.  I believe the distinguishing factor is that there is a face to the {grow} community. You know me as a person and once you bump around a bit, you start to know the other community members too.

Company blogs are usually written by a team of people.  There are notable benefits to this approach:

  • Diversity of views and topics
  • Spread out the workload
  • Consistency of coverage even during vacations and attrition

So I’m not criticizing this blogging strategy.  But the downside is that there is no personality to connect to. People are unlikely to form a community around an anonymous team of people.  If you’re employing this approach, I think it’s a long-shot to expect meaningful engagement.

Example of an exception: Randy’s Journal, the personal Boeing blog of Marketing VP Randy Tinseth. Real guy. Real community.

Let’s look at the numbers

A recent study by Compendium shows that 92% of B2C companies claim that 60% or more of their blog traffic are first-time visitors and a vast majority of the time, more than 80% are newcomers every day.

The numbers for B2B are a little better with 64% of companies claiming that 60% or more of their visitors have never been there before on any given day.

In other words, visitors to a company’s blog are not a core group of loyal community members. It’s a constant churn of people who have never been there before … and may never be there again.

Re-thinking the meaning of engagement

For those who have been chanting the “it’s all about community” mantra, there are some pretty shocking — but also exciting — implications to this:

1) Except in very few cases, engagement as measured by subscriptions, return visitors and comments may not be a realistic or desirable goal for your company blog.

2) The data show that corporate blogs act as superb targets for search engines. We already knew that but perhaps it’s time to codify that and respond with an appropriate social media sales strategy. You probably have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of strangers buzzing by your blog every day. Stop trying to engage them.  Just get them to pause.

3) The B2B data show that prospects are almost twice as likely to stick around a B2B blog than a B2C blog. This is great news for the B2B marketer. The B2B sales cycle is long and buyers need lots of information to make decisions. While visitors may not be engaging, they do seem to be reading and coming back for more.

If you’ve made your living touting the engagement benefits of corporate blogging, you’re probably either reaching for your oxygen mask or your flame-thrower.  In any event, I’d like to hear from you in the comment section. What do you think of this re-framing of the objectives of a corporate blog?

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