Monday, May 22, 2006

Marketers experimenting with social media

A new report from Forrester Research, Interactive Marketing Channels To Watch In 2006 looks into interactive marketers' plans to add social media to their communications plans. Half plan to use blogs or social networks (versus 93% using email), although I would be very interested to ask the follow-up question of how they plan to use them. (Report shows marketers stick with proven interactive media, via Micro Persuasion)

Steve Rubel's comment on the article cuts to the chase: "Marketers are going to have to shift from pushing messages out to guiding/facilitating peer-to-peer conversations." How do you plan to use new media that operate in the Cluetrain "markets are conversations" world? Have you learned where the landmines are? As you explore opportunities to add social media to your marketing communications plans, be sure to start with a solid understanding of the conversational mindset. Reading influential blogs is a good start.

In addition to the switch that Steve identifies, I think one of the major challenges social media pose for companies is their tendency to cross functional lines, while the specialists are looking at them from separate functional silos. It's natural for the specialists to bring their experience to social media, but customers don't care about interacting with departments. They want what they want from the company, and the conversational nature of social media gives them a voice that's not restricted to traditional inbound channels.

Engaging bloggers and responding to posts could involve marketing, PR, or customer service, depending on how you tilt your head. When a product problem leads into a complaint about customer service and is blogged, leading to negative coverage in the mainstream press, how do the specialists describe the problem? When companies decide to engage social media, they should take a holistic approach and be prepared to follow the implications across internal boundaries. After all, customers don't do business with just your outbound marcom.

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