As you probably can imagine, I have been thinking a lot about social marketing in the wake of Peter Shankman's visit and our event. The "thinking" has been helped along by a follow-up presentation by the wonderful Shonali Burke in a presentation to a client in Northern Virginia on Wednesday and by meetings and conversations with others including other clients over the course of the last few days.
While the good wishes and good thoughts from others keep coming our way, so does the reality of how exactly to use this new information in the daily practice of PR and marketing and how it meshes with existing (and new) business and clients. There are a number of barriers to break through, most of them minor and surmountable, but they are there and must be navigated if we are to incorporate this new tool into our daily marketing lives. Here is a list in no particular order:
- Colleagues: You might be basking in the warm glow of new understanding, but others may not. Either they don't understand or want to, or they are concerned that if you can't do it correctly out of the box then it will have a negative effect on your company. Those concerns are valid so teach those who want to be taught and ask others to be patient with you as you experiment.
- Some people may never get it: There are some organizations and clients that are just not built for social marketing yet. Barriers here include the lack of patience or understanding of technology to concerns about privacy and legal issues. That's okay, not everyone bought the last media relations campaign you tried to convince them to do either. Work first with folks who are willing to try this with you and build your case studies.
- A nibble is not a meal: There will be a tendency to try one small social marketing tactics with hopes of hitting a home run right out of the box. You will need to manage expectations like with any other strategy and remind folks that you need to build the entire campaign and execute from start to finish. When was the last time you called only The Today Show or Oprah and they did the segment. You would count on that strategy because you knew it would likely never work. Same here.
- Pricing: We think we have come up with a model but will likely have to tweak it along the way. If it is too low then you lose money, if it is too expensive then the client can hire someone internally for less. Depending on the client, a hybrid model also may work. Time is our commodity and social marketing, whether it is in the form of listening and reputation management campaigns, or community aggregation-interaction-and ultimately then driving them to transactions can take a great deal of time. The folks with the money can throw it at this issue like they do with everything else, but the vast majority of clients (especially in this economy) will need to be careful on how much they spend and how they spend it. Which leads me to...
- MeasuringROI: It is about playing defense, making sure that you don't get slammed on Twitter and bloggers; or it it about playing offense, by driving people in a newly-formed Facebook group to your website to take you up on your Facebook-only discount offer? Which is worth more in this day and age? Is social marketing even really build to drive traffic? All good questions and what it may really come down to is the million dollar question, who wins? The purists who believe by playing defense you are defending the brand and thereby gaining loyalty or the capitalists who believe that by using this new platform to sell you are driving business. SM expert Jay Baer's take on this is worth reading and a possible glimpse into the future.
I wish I had on the answers, but I don't. I'm being as honest as I can be with anyone who asks me that question including clients. One on one, the best piece of advice Peter Shankman gave me was "please never call yourself a social media expert. Anyone who does that is full of shit. We're all still trying to figure all of this out."
That is a pretty comfortable place for PR folks. We are the people who know what works because it has worked before, but can never "guarantee" future success because we rely on third parties like the media or community leaders to "endorse" our point of view. We also know the factors that can get in the way of that endorsement. That's what makes the third party endorsement so valuable.
So as others are doing and are telling me to do, I am relying on my marketing instincts to do what I think is right. I'm not over promising, but I do see the promise in all of this. And I'm asking my colleagues and clients to take this ride with me. They know me well and for the most part, I don't think I have failed them yet.