Thursday, October 16, 2008

You Are Not Alone—Not by a Long-Shot

Everywhere I go, and I’ve been out and about quite a bit lately, people are talking about social media and what it means to marketers.

One thing is clear: most marketers are still trying to get their heads around social media. While business people have varying degrees of familiarity with social media from the personal side of their lives, few have experience with it on behalf of the brands they support. And while most marketing executives are familiar with the headline grabbing blunders, few can point to examples of companies that are using social media in new, engaging, brand-building ways.

From what I can see, marketers tend to fall into a few categories on the subject of using social media to market their brands:

1. Don’t get it and aren’t going to try—this crowd is passively making themselves obsolete. You won’t have to worry about them in a few years, they’ve raised their hands and said “count me out”.

2. Trying to get it—This is the sophomore group, our friends who know there’s something to all of this, they’re just not sure how much time and energy they need to, or should, invest in getting their heads around it. It’s not that they don’t want to Digg in (I couldn’t resist J), they’re just not sure where/how to start.

3. Get it, trying it, not sure what to make of it yet—frankly, these are the people you can count on to start leveraging social media for their brands, but my biggest worry for them is they’re going to try to take on too much too fast, have embarrassments, not measure, and then call the whole thing a failure. My best advice, which I have heard again and again from others “in the know,” is to take it slow, listen 100x more than you talk, and never engage in deceptive practices. Just as you lead by example so should you participate in the communities that affect and drive your brand.

4. Whiz kids—these are the people who were out there early, made some mistakes, learned from them, and are pioneering onward and upward. They don’t preach to their brands’ communities, they participate with them. Learn from these marketers--they’re the ones who really, really get it.

And while you may think that only the small companies with nothing to lose are the ones guerilla marketing their way into the hearts and minds of their customers, you may be surprised to learn that some of the best efforts are coming from household names. Take a look at Dunkin’ Donuts on Facebook. Sign up to follow The Home Depot on Twitter. Look at Johnson & Johnson’s YouTube Channel. Dell Computers has been engaging with their fans for a while now on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and other properties. Many other brands are out there as well.

And here’s another surprising entrant to this space… major pharma.

Case in point—on Tuesday, I attended the first day of the Digital Pharma Conference here in Princeton and sat in on the session conducted by Sam Trujillo, Director of Consumer Marketing in Bayer’s women’s’ health group. He said some really smart things and I like his advice to his fellow pharma marketers, (after he of course cautioned about adverse effects considerations): “You have to put it out there and accept what comes back” and “The power of online [is] you have to let things go where they’re going to go.” Sam shared information about how his company is integrating various media and leveraging celebrity relationships into the online channel. I was encouraged to see the willingness to experiment and learn from this new channel.

Colleen Riley from Pfizer and I had a great conversation, picking up off what was discussed in my and other sessions last week at Search Marketing Expo in NYC—that the conversation is going on with or without your brand’s participation. So don’t you want to at least sit in on the conversation, even if you’re not ready to start conversing? Because guess what—your competitors very likely are doing at least that much, and why should they get to know what your “fans” are thinking while you turn a blind eye and deaf ear?

So while you might not be alone wondering what to about social media, you will be alone if you don’t do anything. That’s why our clients recently received a proactive announcement from us detailing the need to get engaged and our proprietary methodology for ensuring their ventures into the social media space are careful, considered, and brand-aligned.

If you’d like to learn more about how we’re helping our clients navigate this channel to their best advantage, reach out and let’s talk.

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