Social Marketing sounds scary—foreign even. And it should, because it’s misleading. The Social Marketers out there in the headlines are making up the rules as they go along. The race to be the most influential expert in the Social Media industry is definitely on. And honestly, if marketing folk didn’t hike up their bootstraps and hoof it in a new direction—they’d be quickly out of work. It’s really not that complex. Don’t believe all the smoke and mirrors. There’s no magic bullet. And—it’s not marketing.
Social Marketing is not about marketing at all—at least not in the traditional sense. It’s about customer service—and marketing that service. In order for a Social Media program to be successful, you can’t live in the house of marketing. You can accessorize with marketing methodology such as campaigning, product sampling, and that sort of thing. But the house you must live in needs to be customer service.
The frontline of your organization is customer service—this is where your company becomes real to the public. Engaging with the public shows them you’re real, it shows them a human face. It puts you in the coveted position of confidant. It allows you to listen to what customers are saying and keeps you pro-active and top-of-mind, all the while remaining involved with them. More importantly than that, you’re building a community that allows customers to interact with each other and it is—in essence—a celebration of your customers. It’s an everyday virtual customer conference.
It’s time to let go of traditional values and let the community and your customer service team market for you. Teaming your marketing silo up with Social Strategists is setting your conversations up to fail—before they even begin. There will be all sorts of head-butting, non-acceptance of key strategy elements, and downright refusal to play nice in the sandbox. Your marketing team is skilled in traditional marketing and is an important piece of your business puzzle—just on a secondary scale in Social Media. Customer service is built for listening and for scaling, and must be the starting point for any successful Social integration program. If the program is to standalone, it can be effectively positioned—or repositioned—as residing between customer service and marketing. Tearing down organizational silos could mean realignment of budgets and key management, but worth the reorganization to bring these departments together. It will be a critical effort in order to manage Social Media after deployment.
You will be managing the care of the public in a public platform. Everyone will be watching; customers, potential customers, fans, your competitors—even your mom. You need to put your best “face” forward. Do you want to trust the customer service of your marketing team to make the decisions? Or do you want to rely on the skills and training of your dedicated customer service team to engage your audience? It seems like a no-brainer.
Social media is not going away. In fact, this is only the beginning. Before long Social Media will be an integral and essential part of the business industry. It will be as obvious and as necessary as email and paycheques. You can stick your head in the sand and pooh-pooh the whole emergent phenomenon of Social, and you can go on believing that traditional values are hard-core and cannot be so easily torn down. But, you’d be wrong. You have to be open and adaptable to change. You have to learn new tricks—no matter how old your dog is.
As a leader in your organization, it’s up to you to make the tough decisions. Board ego’s run deep, budgets are tight, and nobody wants to talk about change. Ain’t that the way it goes? All the excuses and reasoning in the world won’t change the fact that one day soon—in order to continue to compete for market—you’re going to have to implement a Social strategy. Why not start embracing it now?
Start discussing strategies internally. Conceptualize your organization in a conversation. Align and arm your customer service department for the new program. Ask for help. Find reputable Social Marketing Strategists to consult with and build a rock-solid platform for your business to engage the world. We are out there—and we’ll tell you the truth.