Respect The Channel, Or Be Swept Out To Sea

“Social media.” Those two words on a lot of lips today.
Gavin Heaton, writing on Servant of Chaos riffs on Gary Vaynerchuck:

NOT engaging with your customers via social media creates opportunities for your competitors. And while you may not lose your whole market, you may well lose the high yield, low churn folks who are your bedrock, or you may lose the low yield, high maintenance influencers who help attract a wider audience.

Over in another area of this vastness we call the inters, in Alabama to be exact, Mack Collier is riffing on Hugh MacLeod:

First, let’s understand that social media is being used by a company’s customers to communicate and interact with each other. They aren’t using these tools in most/any cases to share marketing messages. So when a company attempts to introduce marketing messages via social media, it’s met by the community with all the acceptance of excessive flatulence in church on a Sunday morning.
So if a company wants use social media successfully as a way to ‘sell more stuff’, they have to understand that they need a new goal. Because social media is a wonderful way to make things happen indirectly.

So, we have one camp saying brands don’t have any choice but to engage and another camp saying, sure, but how you engage has everything to do with creating community, serving customers and building the brand. Notice there’s nothing about boosting sales in this latter camp’s testimony.
There are questions right now about whether social media is a PR channel, a sales channel, a place for ads and/or sponsored content, or whether MyFaceSpace really belongs to the individuals who use it, and brands had better recognize.
While I believe in the “social media makes things happen indirectly” argument to some degree, I don’t believe many clients are going to pony up for that non-sell. It may be a new day in media, but clients still want to know, “What’s in it for me?”
The answer in this media sector, as in others, is we’re going to build the brand and the community around the brand, while educating on product benefits and motivating a future transaction.
For sure, social media has it’s own rules. Every ocean does! But let’s be honest, brands get into the water to win. If being friendly, responsive and transparent via social media is a win, then we all win.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.