Social media

Social Media in marketing is digital word-of-mouth that forms the basis of pull marketing as opposed to traditional push marketing.

Fishing lures in all colours

Social Media is the way in which people converse, get involved and influence each other on the Internet and it is a social phenomenon that finds application on so-called social media services or online platforms.

When we talk about the Internet we include all the technical platforms such as computers, tabs and mobile phones, but also the software that makes seamless online or digital communication possible. At the moment, the best known, and most used, is probably Facebook with around 18% of all people on the planet as registered members.

Social Media enables interactive dialogue between organizations, communities, and individuals. “Interactive” means a conversation between two parties in real time, whether between individuals or between individuals and businesses. Social media platforms’ main attribute is that it functions on user generated content. If the users go silent, the platform goes silent.

Social Media can be effectively used by small and large businesses alike to create and participate in conversations about their businesses, products and services.

Push Marketing

Push marketing is that traditional style of marketing where a business broadcasts its sales message and the target or consumer passively receives it with little opportunity to respond.

Silhoutte man pushing reluctant woman

Traditional marketing was largely interruptive. Whether it was a billboard next to the road, a TV advertisement, advertising in a magazine or someone stuffing pamphlets into post boxes, the advertising message was forced onto the consumer.

That was the price the consumer had to pay for being a potential customer.

Social media changed the roles. It put the decision or power in the hands of the consumer.

The only way traditional marketing could reach potential customers, was to move its money to where the people have moved – online onto social media platforms.

That not only gave the marketers or advertisers a platform where they could reach consumers, it also enabled online social platforms to be monetized. Probably all social media platforms (especially the early ones) started out with no idea how it would make money. In fact, most started as student projects with no thought of profit.

When world culture changed and people moved online to exchange ideas and information, and to communicate and socialize, advertising and marketing had to move to where the market (people) was.

Advertising agencies had large budgets to spend and a business model that needed to change. But, as things work, they needed to adapt with as little change as possible and without reducing profit.

So they added a new division: social media marketing.

It is unfortunate that social media, when it originated, did not create new marketing terminology that reflected it’s role in society. So the advertising industry seized the opportunity and just added a word to the new culture: ‘marketing”.

So, forever and a day, using social media to promote products, services and causes, will be called “marketing”.

Is that a bad thing?

No, it isn’t.

But it gave social media the marketing/sales tag while social media is not primarily a further development in marketing and sales, but a development in human culture, especially that part of culture that relates to creating quality of life by sharing experiences.

So, social media was seized to become a marketing tool. And now we have a repetition of traditional complaints that marketing, which is actually advertising (they are not the same thing), is interruptive.

But, despite being seized by traditional interests, social media is largely what it was meant to be, namely a tool for people to enhance communication.

Businesses that use social media based on the nature of the culture, use it as a tool to converse, inform, listen and influence.

Businesses that takes the “easy” route or remains in a comfort zone, use it in the traditional “push-marketing” way.

If you wonder where this “crazy view” comes from, let me call in a heavyweight who is quietly talking more sense than most of the social media noise-makers. Richard Stacy gave the right perspective as far back as 2010 in this blog post about that true nature of social media.

Ripped paper with headline business owners use social media wrong

The mistake (and it is a mistake because it dilutes the true potential of social media in marketing) is that most business owners use social media as a traditional “push marketing” tool.

The business owner becomes his own newspaper advertisement or radio station from where he broadcasts whatever he thinks is of value to him and his business.

Do you “like” Facebook Pages or follow brands on social media to receive their sales messages? If not, why do you expect people to do it for you?

Using social media like that, shows a lack of comprehension for the culture of the medium.

Social media is open to all, it rests on user generated content and it allows people to voice their views without the business being able to censor them. You cannot threaten people on social media with advertising boycotts like was traditionally done in radio and newspapers.

The nature of social media places the brand in the hands of the consumer, not entirely in the hands of the brand owner or company, which means that consumers can influence how the brand is perceived by society.

This happens because consumers use social media platforms to relate their experience with, and views of, a product or brand and this “digital word-of-mouth” are used by other consumers to form an opinion about a brand.

Traditional advertising on social media platforms compete with the conversation people are having with each other about a business or brand.

If there is no conversation about your business, or your kind of product or service, then advertising can be traditional.

If people are, however, having a conversation about your business, product or service, then there is no contest.

Three giraffe in conversation

Word-of-Mouth marketing

Most small business owners hold the opinion that word-of-mouth is their best advertising, so it follows that word-of-mouth on a magnified scale will have a magnifying effect. If one traditional consumer could influence the views of 150 people, the scale of social media means that one consumer can influence hundreds, thousands or even millions online.

It all depends on the extent of the person’s network as well as their willingness to share the information with their own networks. Sharing gives social media an amplifying effect which is unsurpassed in history.

Using social media as traditional push/interruptive marketing defies the purpose and makes you miss the opportunity of having people do your marketing for you.

Whether you use an advertising/marketing agency or do it in-house, all you need to do is participate in the conversation.