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

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. 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. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I’ve been doing some deeper reading on this topic.
    John Bell and The Harte of Marketing offer two opposing POVs. Bell is for the mashup of disciplines. Harte isn’t.

  2. Heh. I see you advertising Steffan Postaer’s new book. He got me my first job in the business, back at Leo Burnett Chicago. He’s a great guy.

  3. I think Mack and I are (sort of) talking about the same thing. I am talking about WHY social media is important for your business. Mack is talking about HOW.
    On the one hand there is the need to understand your audiences – and deliver value to those segments that are important to you. And on the other, there is the need to understand that not everyone is ready to buy “all the time”. That is where social media has huge advantages. It allows you to build preference and relationship strength before purchasing decisions are imminent.

  4. @Hugh – Yes, Steffan has been kind enough to support us with this ad placement on AdPulp. Please read The Happy Soul Industry before it’s made into a movie!
    @Gavin – I’m so glad you said “build preference and relationship strength before purchasing decisions are imminent.” You are thinking about the bottom line and I respect that!

  5. Having met both Gavin and GaryVee, I can attest to the brilliance of both. As far as sales in SM, my point was that in order to EFFECTIVELY use social media, then companies need to use it as their customers do, as a communication channel. But if done properly, that becomes a powerful form of marketing for the company.
    On the other hand, if you launch a blog with the direct goal of ‘selling more stuff’, you aren’t going to see the results you want, because your tone/positioning will be supporting your direct goal (selling more stuff), and it will hack your readers/customers off. Because in general, people don’t read blogs to be sold to, just like communities don’t form around the idea of being monetized.

  6. That makes sense Mack, Thanks for coming by to further clarify your points. You’re right no one wants to be pitched to all the time and such a site would likely fail, unless there was a strong price offering or something of value built in. Did I just say something of value? Yep. Branded utility is a very good thing.

  7. David,
    This is a great debate and you have done a wonderful job pointing out the adoption issue brands have with Social Media. Bottom line ROI can only be part of the measurement plan as Social Media can only be part of a successful media mix plan. Social media falls somewhere between blind lead generation (pure awareness) and the sale. It allows you to create preference, build a relationship and desire before purchasing, but it also has a solid place after the purchase in nurturing loyalty and can ultimately create evangelists for a brand.