In almost every presentation about social media, the self-styled ‘gurus’ will advise joining the conversation. That is the same conversation made famous in The Cluetrain Manifesto, the bible of the blogging generation. This seminal work introduced the concept of markets as conversations; conversations that enable powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge. These new, networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.
Yet the response to these fundamental changes needs to be considered as part of the overall marketing mix. Cluetrain-savvy companies appreciate the need to communicate with their markets directly. The new mantra is:
- Listen to the conversations taking place about the market, brand, company and competitors and learn from what is being said;
- Engage with them by speaking in a human voice, share their concerns, and gain permission to join their communities.
Classically-trained marketers will be familiar with the 4 Ps of marketing, one of the best known marketing mix models, first expressed in 1960 by E J McCarthy. Best summed up as putting the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time, they are:
- Product (or service)
For decades, the 4 Ps model has helped marketers define their marketing options when planning new ventures and evaluating existing offers to optimise the impact on a target market. The model clearly still applies today (it’s all marketing, after all) but there are an additional 4 Ps that might apply in this digital age:
- Personality (authenticity, adding value, people)
- Purpose (sustainability, global and local)
- Performance (return)
Let’s look at each in turn.
Brand personality cannot be faked on the social web, and the penalty to reputation from such fakery can be high. With authenticity as the new baseline for every brand, truth and transparency may pose challenges for many organisations but are increasingly non-negotiable. Social media is personal, so having a genuine personality is the key to achieving competitive advantage in the new digital age.
Every organisation starts from the same base when it comes to social media. Building a presence where authority is defined not by legacy, size or past initiatives, but by contributing – and being seen to contribute – to the online communities that matter to customers in the ways they want and expect, is essential to social marketing success.
It is not sufficient to have presence alone, however. Companies need to be in it for the long haul, contributing consistently and with real purpose – not just to sell products. They should ask, who are we and how can we add value? not where is our audience and how can we target them?
Marketers must know how social marketing assists/affects organisational objectives, in the short, medium and long-term. They need to deliver a strong social performance across all functions, processes and channels, putting the right internal and external resources in place to achieve that. This performance needs measuring against real indicators of success, in order to learn and improve.