More specifically, social networking can be for marketing, but that’s not what it’s for.
This is a topic that comes up a lot. As I sit here (with a towel and a pillow on my head, compliments of our little Dream) contemplating my Next Great Adventure(s), I know that whatever I do will gain its success through social media. If I do a web comic or a weekly video blog stories or sell jewelry or write stories or whatever, the only way that people are going to know about it is if I tell them – leaving your novel’s marketing up to the publishing company is a fast-track to low (or zero) sales.
As they say:
“He who has a thing to sell
and goes and whispers in a well
will not do so well as he
who goes and shouts it from a tree.”
And yet, if my Facebook and Twitter accounts are nothing more than a long line of “YO BUY MY STUFF YO!” posts, no one’s going to want to read anything, let alone pay money.
If you’re looking in the newspaper or on certain types of websites for something to buy, you’re buying from a company. That company has let you know where they are by putting out advertisements, and for every 1,000 people who see that ad, 10 of them will go, “Hey, I really need that widget, and they look like they have a good price for it!” It’s a passive format, in a way, with a strange ROI that is often inversely proportionate to cost.
But, when you’re in a social networking environment, people aren’t looking for businesses – they’re talking to people. That’s what makes it social. Trying to use the traditional advertising marketing methods in a social networking environment is like going to a cocktail party and pitching your widgets to complete strangers. Rather, the proper way to get to someone in that cocktail party would be to strike up a conversation, see what you’ve got in common as humans and maybe see if it might lead to conversation about work and what you do and what you sell. Then, you give them a card (traditional marketing/advertising) and let them decide if they want to talk to you later.
I’m not going to get into the specifics of Facebook and how they advertise according to your Likes and such. As sneaky as it is, their method works, even on someone as jaded as me. If you’re just buying advertising on a social networking site, then that’s fine – that may work for you, but if you really want to use social networking, you have to act like a human.
This brings us to my favorite point about SocNet in general, and that’s community management. As marketing becomes more “humane”, it requires being more “human”, and that means employing people who speak in human languages. Many companies believe either that it requires a marketing degree to do this or that “just anyone can do it“. Community management is not well-understood because, as a vocation and occupation, it’s developed as a reaction within an economic system that is changing quickly.
I also will not go into why I think the economic system is changing, as that is the topic of a different article.
The long and short of it, though, is that if anyone should be reading this specific post on this specific blog, it should be the people who employ community managers. I have friends in the business who have four or five or six different intellectual properties that they’re supposed to manage at the community level – and I’m stunned because taking care of my one is more than a full-time job sometimes. Marketing units who assign community managers these monumental piles of work still think that the energy that goes into community management is the same as what goes into marketing. Boy, howdy, is this backwards and wrong-headed! Those in marketing who do not understand community management want the benefits of “community”, but they’re not willing to pay for what they get.
What are the benefits of a strong brand-specific community? Loyalty is at the top of the list. A loyal community member will support an IP or brand beyond the main offering. In video games, this translates into IP-related book sales, merchandise sales and fan-sponsored parties to spread the Good Word about their favorite titles, among other things. A loyal community member will also forgive mistakes far more readily and will defend the source company against all comers. Finally, a loyal community member is an actual customer who spends money, encourages others to spend money and in the end is happy and satisfied not just with the product that they themselves have purchased but with the overall success of the product and source company.
It’s kinda like what they have over in those organized sporting groups, with all their hockey balls and baskets and what-nots. Those people are rabid to support their franchises because being fans of those franchises make them a member of a community – and communities, being made up of individuals, have the true power in any economic structure: they’re the guys with the choice of how to spend their money. Make them happy first – which is the community manager’s job.