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?

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  • I think it’s very much a case of “tune in, or risk dropping out”. This is the point where sales, communications, marketing and customer service collide.

    Companies need to realise that that have to be able to react immediately with social communications (I’m tired of calling it social media!).

    Yes, policies are necessary. Yes, teams need to be aware of the brief, but I’m convinced those that don’t tune into real-time social interaction on the web will miss opportunities.

  • Jim LeBlanc

    Really key points Mark. In some respects this is the centerpiece of social marketing and yet most people miss it completely. I have been attending a lot of webinars and conferences and this approach is never even mentioned. I’m not exaggerating.

    What you say makes sense and companies need to consider this as a radical departure from the status quo.

    Good job on this post!!!

  • Mark

    Jon + Jim — Thanks for your comments today!

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  • Doomed if you do, doomed if you don’t…
    Having a security background I completely understand the need to have a Social Media policy. I think having a policy, and a set “voice” is important and you just can’t get away from the legal mambo jambo easily.

    Organizations need to create a team/individual to manage SM..and then trust that team. The key thing I see here takes me back to the “nimble elephant.” You absolutely need to be agile enough to react to the immediacy of SM, yet marketing, PR, or whoever manages SM needs to be a visionary. Create plans, strategies and yes sighhhh….policies.

  • Mark

    @Natasha Thanks for providing your voice of experience to the discussion!

  • Brilliant points, Mark!

    Some of the best practices cited included having 2 policies – one for those intimately engaged with the social web, and one for All employees. This potentially solves the issue of scalability, by allowing every employee to become an early warning/opportunity signal, who can route feedback/comment to the appropriate department (customer service, PR, market research, IT, HR etc). The key will be to encourage personal brand building within the confines of company goals, and objectives.


  • Mark – not sure if you caught my post last month but I had an actual complaint I made about Sprint on a friend Facebook page caught by Sprint and acted upon. Then a Director followed up with me afterwards to make sure I was completely satisfied. As someone who blogs and advocates about the power of social media it was very interesting to have it flipped around and be on the customer. I really wasn’t trying to get attention to my issue by making a snarky comment on Facebook but I am so so so very glad they fixed my phone!

  • Mark

    @Prince — An exceptional idea. So nice to hear from you!

    @Heather — I did see that article, and here is a link so that other people can see it too:

    Thanks so much for adding that great story to the dialogue, Heather!

  • Dan Levine

    Mark, great point. Problem is, for many Social Media is still very new and we’re asking these folks to make enormous changes to their business model and their way of thinking. Change takes time and a whole lot of cooperation from the entire organization. And we’re talking about an enormous departure from traditional marketing & customer service. CEO’s or CMO’s can try and mandate change from the top but we know that in order to be successful they’ll need to get buy-in from the entire organization. So I think what we should be asking is: what can we do to help folks ease into this new model and begin to engage in these important conversations within their organizations? How can we help them begin the change process?


  • Mark

    @Dan — You’re right of course, as usual, but I guess i don’t see it as quite so complicated.

    First, I think most company cultures will get or they won’t. You’re not going to really change a company culture because of Twitter or a Facebook page, at least not a large one.

    And second, the change does not necessarily have to be company-wide. It can simply be enabling a small group of folks who are responsible for monitoring and responding to opportunities. That seems a lot more doable to me than tackling an entire company culture.

  • Dan Levine

    @Mark — Right on, I made it more complicated than it needs to be. But it’s not *quite* so simple. I’ll aim for a middle ground. I think customer service is everyone’s responsibility. As such, it’s slightly bigger than just Twitter & Facebook — not only does it require monitoring all (many) social media outlets & empowering those folks to act, but it also means empowering your sales staff and store managers (or wherever business is transacted). I don’t think you can do it in pieces — that is, you can’t just focus on empowering one part of the business to act. So it takes some organizational commitment to do it right, consistently and effectively. I agree when you say “company cultures will get it or they won’t.” I guess it’s our job to help those businesses who aren’t currently engaging their customers in real time to figure out how to make it a part of their culture.

  • Mark

    @Dan Well said.

  • Great follow-up point from Dan re customer service being everyone’s responsibility. That points to the value of *embedding* social media in functional parts of the business in the form of an sm pointperson integrated within those functional teams, from (conceivably) retail to R&D. This breaks from the typical org-chart approach of having a social media team in their own separate ghetto, largely isolated from actual interaction with customers; and while arguably difficult to implement and sustain, is much more likely to engage customers and build brand loyalty.

  • Ron Hunter

    An excellent synopsis of the main issues effecting companies as they grapple with the NEW NEW THING. But it does surprise me how often I have seen this discussion play out only to lead to the same result: Most large incumbents sub-optimally implement the new thing, the visionary ones realize the opportunity to embrace a strategic change and new entrants enter with a disruptive bang. What I never understand is how so many miss the fact that this transition from a “command and control” to “sense and response” organizational structure and operation tempo has been occurring for at least the last 25 years ( at least that is when I started paying attention). With the decreasing cost in I.T. and the development of business technologies such as Balance Score Card, Six Sigma, JIT, Activity Based Costing, etc. the opportunity to capitalize on real time relationship management has never been better for those who see the big picture. The Social Web and Mobile Marketing are just another step in the long journey.

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