Pete Spande, who runs the East for FM and therefore toward whom I am favorably inclined, has written a brief but very true post on the myth that marketing in social media should somehow be free. It’s not free, just like throwing a great social event isn’t free, but it can be very efficient and it can certainly help get marketers to their goals, if done right.
Social Media Marketing is like entertaining in the physical world. If you want to share an experience with a group of people (either personally or professionally) you need to go to where the people are and get their attention or entice them to come to you. In either case, you have to invest something to get a return.
Pete argues there are various ways to get this done. Many marketers take his first approach (pull out all the stops), usually by attaching themselves to well known celebrities (come hang with LeBron in our Officially Sanctioned NBA social media play! (ooops, this site is no longer active!).
This approach (have the Foo Fighters play! Let folks know Britney will be showing up!) usually fails, and has given social marketing a bad name inside many major brands. “Hey, we tried a deal with (Facebook, MSN, Google, etc) and while a lot of people showed up, no needles really moved, and it all seemed to dissipate as quickly as it started.”
That’s because this approach is pretty much more of the same old sh*t – create a social media execution that has very little value as an organic community, pay a large site a fair chunk of dough to push traffic at it, and then watch as the traffic bounces off it as if it were a heat shield.
There’s another way to do it. A few in fact. I’m particularly a fan of two approaches: First, finding the true leaders of a community you care about, and engaging them in a dialog about how best to join the conversation they lead. What you come up with just might be something like HP’s VoicePosts, Intel’s embedding code and support of BB’s OffWorld, or American Express’ Open Forum.
Secondly, I like the approach of determining you have something valuable to add on your own, and you might become a publisher in your own right, as long as what you build is truly valuable. That’s how you end up with Microsoft’s CrowdFire, or Asus’ WePC.com (or come to think of it, American Express’ Open Forum again.)
Social media marketing is about brands acting, well, social. Which means they need to show up to the party with a nice bottle of wine, if that’s what the party calls for. They need to come ready to have a dialog, and add value to the event. Of course, if they show up with Britney, we won’t complain, if she respects the vibe of the community. If she can’t, well, she probably shouldn’t come in the first place.