A Flip Mino, a Twitter account and a little social media knowledge will not make anyone a marketer

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Above cartoon courtesy of and copyright of HubSpot

Social media is a wonderful thing.  For practically nothing, any brand or individual can create a presence online, produce and distribute original content, find an audience and maybe even turn them into followers.

Of course as the saying goes, “that and $3.00 will buy you a latte.”

To think that employing social media will actually solve your marketing problems is akin to believing that the purchase of an expensive camera will turn you into Annie Liebowitz.  It ain’t gonna happen.

Take a close look at three of the most frequently mentioned social media success stories:  Zappos, Kogi Korean Barbeque and Gary Vaynerchuck. They’re not smart marketers because they’re using social media.  They’re using social media because they’re smart marketers.  They each have the right product or service, an insight that inspires customers, a differentiating brand position, and relevant content to get it across.

Does Zappos account for one out of all 60 UPS shipments because Tony Hsieh has 800,000 followers on Twitter?  Doubt it.  Tony has those followers because he’s passionate about customer service. Can’t find what you want from Zappos?  An employee will track it down elsewhere.  Get a sense they’re not trying to end your phone call?   It’s because there’s no stopwatch telling them to.  Zappos’s product is customer service.  Their insight is the fact that a well-served customer will become a loyal one.  Social media is simply a tool to demonstrate both.

The same holds true for Kogi.  The roving taco trucks don’t find 200 people lined up waiting for a Kogi fix simply because the company started tweeting its whereabouts.  It has loyal customers who like Mark Manguera’s concept of drizzling Korean barbeque sauce over a Mexican taco and selling it for a fair price, often next to clubs as they empty out late at night.  As simple as the concept sounds, it never existed until Manguera followed through on his idea.

Or take the incomparable Gary Vaynerchuck.  He didn’t grow his business from $4 million a year to $80 million a year because he bought a video camera and started a YouTube channel.  He single handedly changed the way wine was marketed.  He removed the mystery behind terms like grassy and tobacco and took the snobbishness out of Bordeaux.  Gary’s product is his unique way of making knowledge more accessible.  His insight was simple:  people are intimidated by wine and don’t need to be.

Every brand or brand wannabe can get on Twitter, put up a Facebook page, and start a blog.  The successful ones will be marketers first, social media users second.

What do you think?  Does social media make you a marketer?  Or do you have to be a marketer to take advantage of social media?

12 comments
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Tyler Hayes
Tyler Hayes

It's funny that Jonathan should up the notion of becoming an expert in some specific Internet-related marketing tactic (or even strategy as a whole), and then Stuart Foster comments on this article as well ;)

Don't worry, I'm not trying to call out Stuart! He's obviously a guy who knows his stuff, there's no doubt about that. But Stuart did also come from the Digg/social bookmarking world, and his blog The Lost Jacket is a great example of applying the world he came from to the world he wanted to learn & talk more about.

I expect we'll see much more hybrids of what Jonathan and Edward both are talking about, like Stuart, rather than the "old world meets new" sorts like Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, and Robert Scoble.
.-= Tyler Hayes´s last blog ..Why Generation Y doesn’t use Twitter =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Jonathan:
Agree there are tools and tactics for generating traffic and sales. I guess when I think of marketing I'm more focused on creating and building a brand with real lasting connections to consumers. The tools and techniques you mention are powerful, and I suppose if you use them well you're a marketer, just a different kind of marketer.

Michelle Lamar
Michelle Lamar

Best post about social media---ever. Thank you for writing what's been on my mind for the last few months. It seems like everyone is a social media expert. Thanks for writing such a good post.

Your post reminded me of Joan Cusack's line from the 80's flick, Working Girl:
Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn't make me Madonna. Never will.

Just because you giveaway a Flip camera doesn't mean you're an expert.

edward boches
edward boches

Michelle,
Thanks so much for the kind words. I agree with you. There are lots of people talking but I'm not sure they're all doing. The line I think of is from Watergate. "Show me the money."

Jamie Favreau
Jamie Favreau

I think with out great content you will fail every time. So you would have to be a great marketer to know your audience and to figure out what works and what does not.

Skill mixed with social networking skills will make you stand out in a digital space!

Jonathan Fields
Jonathan Fields

I agree, but...there's an interesting thing that goes on in the online info-marketing world that adds a bit of a twist.

Rather than starting with core product or service then building a marketing funnel around it and integrating things like social media as a channel on the dial, many web-based info marketers do the opposite.

They master a particular strategy in one channel like online video, PPC or list-driven JV promos, then spend most of their time looking for products to back into that specific approach. Once that strategy reaches a point of oversaturation in a market and ROI declines, they move on to another market/strategy and do the same thing.

Interesting, though, while I know many people who consistently generate 7 & 8 figure nets using a variety of channels, I have yet to see any of them master social media as a standalone "marketing product" on the same level.

Amy Shropshire
Amy Shropshire

To jump on Guy's comment, I went to one of those conferences Saturday (free-I refuse to pay to attend!) and was amazed by just how many 'social media gurus' there were presenting who up until 6 months ago had never used any type of social media platform, or any other marketing tool.

And I like Stuart's comparison to color by numbers and Michelangelo. Very well stated!

edward boches
edward boches

Guy,
That's a funny observation. There sure are a lot of conferences. I'm sure some of them are quite valuable if the speakers are accomplished and have actually created successes. BL Ochman always keeps a tab on how many people have "social media guru" in their bio on Twitter. Over 5000 so far. As I counsel clients all the time, whatever you do, don't hire someone with the word "guru" in their title.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

Nice demystifying of the most common social media success stories, Edward. Without a good product and fundamental communication skills, it doesn't matter what new marketing channels are available.

Now if we could put an end to the cash-grab conferences promoting social media as a magic bullet, we'd really be making some progress!
.-= Guy LeCharles Gonzalez´s last blog ..Crowds vs. Gatekeepers: Not a Zero-Sum Game =-.

Susan Getgood
Susan Getgood

100% agree.

Always and forever, it's the idea, not the tool.

Stuart Foster
Stuart Foster

The mere use of social media does NOT make you a marketer. Nor does it make you a community manager. Those titles need to be won and proved before anyone can make that assessment about themselves.

It's like comparing someone who colors by numbers to Michelangelo. Simply knowing how to paint doesn't make you an artist. The same is true with social media.
.-= Stuart Foster´s last blog ..Why Exclusivity Rules =-.

Mariano
Mariano

Interesting question. I think the fundamental skill of a marketer is to know how to communicate with people. That's why social media seems to be such a natural fit.

Now, I think there are plenty of people out there who have marketing skills that end up using social media successfully to build and promote their business, but social media will not turn someone into a marketer.

Well-written with good points. Thanks for the insight!
.-= Mariano´s last blog ..Send Out Cards: Keeping in Touch with Customers =-.