A lot of early web adopters understood community right away. It’s the chance to reach hundreds, thousands, no – millions.
Unfortunately, most got it wrong. A web page isn’t like a television ad, reaching out to million of viewers at one time. A web page speaks to the one, a single representative of a community.
A community doesn’t start with millions. It starts with one. If you serve the one, the one will tell one, who will tell two, who will tell six, and so on and so on. If you don’t serve the one… and each one after… bye bye, community.
Social media is about the social as well as the community. This means that you have to service the individual’s needs for them to come together as a whole.
Today’s businesses have to do a total rethink. It no longer is about serving their market, it’s about serving the like-minded individuals as a collective.
Targeting the One Not the Many
Advertising and marketing used to group like-people together. We saw a lot of that in the recent presidential election with the labeling of hockey moms, Joe Plumber, and Joe Six Pack, stereotypes of United States workers. Massive polling, surveys, and research was done for decades helping businesses understand their market demographics, targeting the many, not the one. The American dream was defined by the average American, not the special or unique American. After all, didn’t every American want a home with two cars in the garage, 2.5 children, and a chicken in the pot on the stove?
Businesses targeted these groups with their ad campaign messages, singing to their choir. Don’t you want a new car every two years? Now that you’ve turned 40, don’t you still want to look sexy and have beautiful skin? Want to sell your products to football fans? Then toss some T&A in their direction and they will anxiously await the commercials and hit the kitchen during the game instead.
In today’s world, these targeted demographics are breaking down. They don’t work. One-size does not fit all and never did, but today’s businesses took the easy street towards advertising and marketing. If they could define the average American, then they could serve their needs with their products, right?
The Internet changed all of that. Instead of corporate telling citizens what they can like and not like, creating cookie cutter people, the people found a voice on the web and started having their say. They told businesses what they wanted and how they wanted it. They also started having their search.
Advertising the SEO Way
You’ve been told a million times on the web: If you want to be found on the web, you have to be findable. Businesses understood that. So did search engines.
Search engines started coming up with ways to grant hierarchical scores to websites based upon their relevancy and ability to offer the right information to the right searcher. Their market was to help the searcher find what they were searching for without the frustration of plowing through the equivalency of a metropolitan yellow pages. Alphabetical categorized listings don’t help you find the right person for the right job, but if the web page has enough of the right words and elements on it, then it must be the right answer, right?
Not always, but they tried.
In order to reach anyone, they have to be on that web page. So businesses started paying attention to how search engines were ranking them, studying their algorithms and methodology like a science. “If we do X then our scores will help us climb the search results list and get more attention for our products and services.” Soon, everyone was playing the SEO guessing game and PageRank became your measure of success.
Until it failed.
It became too easy to fool and manipulate. Google and other search engines are in the middle of a huge shift in how they score web content for relevancy. Profiling is in the mix, judging you by your web habits and search patterns and delivering content to you accordingly, but businesses are learning that in order to be found, they have to be findable in a whole new way.
Word of Mouth (WOM) is back on the front burner for marketers. It’s not just about the water cooler chat any more. They have to drive the conversation into the user experience. They have to make it personal.
By making it personal, the customer is telling the company how they want to be served. Not just in the United States but around the world. The customer wants out of the boxes advertisers and governments have put them in. They want to make it very personal and demand that businesses get personal – and social.
They have to be social. In other words, they not only have to be findable, they have to be reachable.
Marketing the Social Way
Today, people want someone to talk to directly. They don’t want to look at newspaper or magazine advertisements. They don’t want to crawl through the phone book. They don’t want to sit on hold. They want someone to be instantly available, and available on the web.
Let’s use the example of Twitter, the microblog/chat social media tool that is the current rage for content and communication – reduced to 140 characters. It has taken a year or so, but businesses are getting the clue that they need to be reachable, and Twitter is quickly extending that reach.
16 Examples of Huge Brands Using Twitter for Business lists a variety of companies and how they are using Twitter as part of their marketing and customer service and includes Dell, Starbucks, JetBlue, ComCast, TheHomeDepot, Whole Foods Market, Southwest Airlines, HRBlock, Popeyes, ATTNews, Forrester Research, and Samsung.
In “How companies connect using Twitter” by the Church of the Customer, Jackie Huba explains that Twitter is used for customer service and communication, but a lot more:
Employees as ambassadors. Dell leads the world with employee representation on Twitter. Check out the conversations that these Dell employees are having on Twitter: LionelatDell, RichardatDell, JohnatDell, APaxtonatDell, KellyatDell. Unlike many Twitterites, I met most of the Dell people in person before following them on Twitter. Because I had a chance to cement a relationship in person, I’m a big fan of the Dell people I follow on Twitter.
In “The Worst Example of a Company Twittering?,” the author shares a lesson learned by DirecTV:
The problem that many companies face when they delve into the social media waters is that they really don’t understand these new-fangled tools. And that means they are probably going to use them in the wrong ways, and for the wrong reasons.
In order to communicate via direct message to someone on Twitter, that person has to be following your Twitter account. According to the article, “Having an effective presence on Twitter means you have to interact with other people. You have to follow other people, and yes, you have to respond to people publicly.”
Sure, you can tweet them publicly, but what if you want to say something privately. Convincing DirecTV to follow everyone who follows them could lead to a social melt down and dilution of their ability to track conversations without third party software. Understanding how the social media tool works is important, as is deciding how you use it.
Which leads blogs like Flackme to write articles like “How to Use Twitter, A Company’s Rulebook” to help businesses understand how to use a social media tool to help themselves as well as their customers.
If you are a corporation, though, what exactly are you trying to accomplish on Twitter? That should be the first question. For me, it was to monitor and participate and answer questions. It was cut and dry, and from engaging, I have been able to turn what were active detractors to active enthusiasts – by acknowledging, responding and helping. Simple as pecan pie.
“The Poetics of Professional Tweeting” by WebProNews sums up the whole concept of social media, especially when using Twitter:
In 140 characters or less: It’s authentic relationships, not self-serving sales pitches, that build business.
People want to do business with people they know. In order to get known, you have to be found and you have to be knowable. Social media tools help you get found – and known, but only if you are using the tool right and using the same tool as your customers.
Exploring Social Media Series
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.