Do Social Networks Already Rule Marketing?

Last week, I took the DemandResults staff to see The Social Network. As I listened to their comments after the film, it was apparent that one of the biggest surprises was that this was not a film about technology, nor was it about Facebook. At its core, it’s a terrific and timeless story about friendship, betrayal and greed.

That said, the movie is a terrific allegory for relationships at various stages, which always leads me back to the question about the type of relationships that companies want to have with their customers. Is your brand best served by being open, transparent and accessible? Or is it best served by being cryptic, mysterious and foreboding?

Believe it or not, there are companies that are still best served by being somewhat inaccessible. For example, private security contractors, talent agents and certain investment funds are probably better off sitting in a black box or behind a velvet rope. But for most other brands, relationships are incredibly important, which is where social media comes in.

Depending on what you sell, your brand may never be one that can actually make direct sales by advertising a product on sites like YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. Your company may have a difficult time proving social ROI. But increasingly, we’re going to be able to prove that customers at various buying stages are using social channels to get referrals from friends, colleagues and neighbors. We all know that it’s already happening, whether you are participating in the conversation or not.

Social media doesn’t yet rule marketing, and for most businesses, it shouldn’t be 100%, or even 50%, of our total marketing investment today. But brands need to wake up to the fact that customers are already talking about you in social channels, and you had better engage them there with competent customer service and intelligent marketing messages. You can listen to the conversation, react to the conversation or even try to control aspects of it. But going back to the fictional Mark Zuckerberg character in The Social Network, you can’t try to kill it with sales messages or ads. If we are to believe anything from Aaron Sorkin’s portrayal of Zuckerberg, it’s that he knew the value of the relationship that “The Facebook” had with its users, and he did everything to make sure that he and his customers stayed on good terms at a critical growth stage.

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