Social Media and the Marketing Mix

This article addresses the effective use of social media marketing. It presents best practices for leveraging the new technologies, and presents an argument against the use of traditional, top-down, marketing approaches.
In the groundbreaking book, The Cluetrain (which can – and should – be read online:” “[1], the authors present the most cogent articulation of the Internet. Not the what of the Internet, but, more importantly, the why of the Internet. I certainly don’t want to spoil the thrill you will have when you read the book, but I will let you in on one critical discovery the authors make with regards to the why of the Internet: Markets are conversations. Essentially, the industrial revolution — summarized by the notion that you could have any color Model T as long as it’s black — created an artificial wall between the providers/makers of services and goods, and their customers. The rise of big advertising only further distended this divide (think Mad Men). Ultimately, we lost the conversation between those making the things and those who consumed the things. In so doing, a culture of mistrust emerged. To combat this mistrust companies spent countless dollars attempting to build brand equity; which is a long way of saying “trust.” Enter the Internet. As the authors of The Cluetrain correctly state, the Internet was never designed for commerce. Rather, the Internet was designed for communication (stories, conversations).
It took some time for those using the Internet to begin using it the way it had always been intended. At first, of course, the large companies and advertisers saw it simply as a gigantic one-way/top-down billboard. The recent ad collapse has borne out just how fallacious this concept was. What we call social media is a sign that the wisdoms of the Cluetrain have finally come to pass.
The tools are irrelevant. Be platform agnostic. Worry today about your Twitter, Facebook, and blog/site strategy (and, by all means, ignore MySpace et al.), but worry not about the “faddishness” of Twitter. Of course, social media is a bubble, but so too was there a bubble around the nascent Internet; it popped (as the social media bubble will too), and the world was forever changed. We can’t go back. Wouldn’t want to.
What is relevant are the practices involved with leveraging the tools of social media in the most impactful manner. There is an equation, it’s a simple one: for every unit of online energy spent, spend a unit on offline energy. Marketing today is a straddle between the online world and the offline world. Only those who do the straddle right will survive. Err too far online, you fail. Too far offline, you fail.
To understand what I’m talking about, consider why Facebook is just crushing MySpace (random sample of the hundred or so students I teach: Q. How many use Myspace? A: None; Q. How many use Facebook? A: All). The reason is that Facebook helps us do the straddle (sounds like a dance), while MySpace is a closed online only experience.
Think about it: Facebook works because it allows you to enhance and augment your offline experiences. You post photos of things you do with your friends; you write on each others’ walls regarding offline experiences.
MySpace is more of (and I use this word in the loosest possible manner) a portfolio, or, what I really believe it’s become, for bands at least: an electronic demo. MySpace has nothing to do with your offline life; it’s only related to your online life, and, thus, falls short.
Musicians and others too often feel that the new tech allows them to forgo what is really important: building real connections via playing live; i.e. they emphasize the online and forget about the offline. It makes sense. These online tools are so easy, and they give the illusion of progress and sometimes accomplishment. However, this indeed is illusory. Without leveraging what you’ve built online in order to grow your offline presence, and vice versa, you will fail.
This holds true across the board. Businesses, authors, whomever…all must do the straddle. If you’re a real estate agent, why would you not be tweeting up a storm, Facebooking up a storm, blogging up a storm, so that when you have an open-house for one of your listings you can connect with your online constituency in an offline manner? If you’re a restaurant that isn’t tweeting out your specials, and even perhaps creating events/menus for your online peeps so that you can then have the offline experience with them, it seems to me you’re missing something. You artists will have to come up with your own Twitter/Facebook/your blog/site strategies (or steal from others). I beg, plead, cajole you to step quickly away from the narrow thinking that has led us to this summer of musical discontent, and instead remember that markets are conversations, and that, really, all social media is is word of mouth on steroids.
A few pieces of advice: Commit. You don’t have to tweet out hundreds of times a day, but you do need to be consistent. If for several days you send out dozens of tweets, and for the past two days, zero… not good. Connect! There must be a connection between your Twitter presence and the rest of your social media efforts. Most importantly, your web site must be the central repository/point of dispensation for all things social media. Build an architecture of participation. If asked, your constituents will help. Ask. Use social media to make them feel like they are building things with you. After all, they are.
A Twitter presence is great, but it’s not enough. It must be leveraged correctly by being more than a one-way push of information; it must be an invitation for the community to contribute to the identity (not brand), and there must be a place where the community can not only see their contributions, but also direct their Tribe (for more on this read Mark Earls’ book Herd, and Seth Godin’s book Tribes) to see what they’ve contributed. This allows for the community itself to attract others willing to join the Tribe. It’s what Mark Earls means when he says (via his interview on the Gaping Void blogHYPERLINK “x-msg://7/#_ftn2″[2]):
Human beings are to independent action, what cats are to swimming. We can do it if we really have to, but mostly we don’t… Instead, we do what we do because of what those around us are doing (Whatever our minds and our cultures tell us).
So if you want to change what I’m doing, don’t try to persuade me – don’t try to make me – do anything. Instead, enlist the help of my friends…
Why bother with all this social media junk, you ask? Well, here’s my point: All top-down created communities will reach a plateau.
It’s not a coincidence that bands get stuck drawing the same number of people to their shows, week after week, year after year. It’s not a coincidence that a website or blog’s traffic gets stuck at a certain level and doesn’t ever really move more than a standard deviation one way or the other. It’s not a coincidence that restaurants and bars reach a certain level of customers and rarely vary from this amount.
In all cases, what has happened is the same: a marketing strategy has been employed (typically some variant of a push/top-down approach) and has reached its maximum level of efficacy. Whatever effect it had, and whatever ambient WOM effect resulted from this initial push has reached its limit. It is now essentially a closed circuit. The same people will come to the bands’ shows, visit the blog, and go to the restaurant (again, all within ±σ).
At this plateau point, those in charge of attracting and retaining new customers have two choices:
1. Ramp up the top-down/push marketing by purchasing more ads, etc., in the hopes that whomever they attract with these ads will engage in the offering and become part of the Tribe. This is not likely, and as we know – with modern analysis so clear in correlating traffic generated from a top-down/push marketing approach to bounce rate — simply doesn’t work.
I’ll use a website as an example: If you, for instance, run a campaign with StumbleUpon, or if you run some other form of ad (God forbid, a banner ad), you will often momentarily increase traffic by as much as +2σ. However, the goal is not just attraction, but also retention, and after the initial spike diminishes, the numbers are typically right back to their original traffic levels (read: no retention).
2. Give those in the Tribe the tools (social objectsHYPERLINK “x-msg://7/#_ftn3″[3], etc.) to direct their peers to the show/site/restaurant of which they are already a Tribal member. The words of Mark Earls are worth repeating :
…If you want to change what I’m doing, don’t try to persuade me – don’t try to make me – do anything. Instead, enlist the help of my friends…
The latter is clearly the right choice. It requires a different strategy. It requires real diligence and perseverance.
Your first several months of using social media can feel like you’re talking to yourself. But, if you’re persistent, if you do “The Straddle”, if you determine what social objects your Tribe can share and use to attract and retain their peers, you will trend up from the plateau.
The benefit of this approach, beyond the fact that it’s likely the only way it will work, is that the financial costs are de minimis. Although, at the same time, you must commit the time and human resources to this project or else it will fail. To sum it up, there are little to no out-of-pocket expenses to undertake, while there are very definitely opportunity costs.
At the end of the day, you have no choice: the conversation has begun, and the tools to facilitate that conversation are improving. You can avoid the conversation (at your peril), but the conversation will go on without you. Big companies are finally starting to understand this. The frustrating part is that many in the music business — those who have so much authentic conversation to share — seem to be resisting it. Part of this is the understandable, though nonetheless delusional, idea that many artists cling to: That the hand of God will come down and promote their work on their behalf so that they can simply focus on creating the work. Best of luck with that. Rather than allowing someone else to present your work to the marketplace (and axiomatically get it half-right or all wrong), you can now converse with your market directly and with an authentic voice. The Internet disdains and shines a bright light on mediocrity and inauthentic behavior. It rewards those who use it as a means to tell stories and create meaningful connections. That is what you must do.
HYPERLINK “x-msg://7/#_ftnref1″[1] Jeff Jarvis, the author of the recent What Would Google Do? book correctly expresses his indebtedness to The Cluetrain. Unfortunately, he misses his mark. The book should have been called What Would Facebook Do?
HYPERLINK “x-msg://7/#_ftnref2″[2] HYPERLINK “”
HYPERLINK “x-msg://7/#_ftnref3″[3] For more on social objects see my blog: HYPERLINK “”



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