I don’t talk to clients about social media anymore

shut_up_and_put_upMaybe it’s time to stop talking to your clients about social media completely. After all social media is not an objective in and of itself. It’s merely a means and a tool to create deeper and more valuable relationships with customers and prospects.

What should you be talking about then?  Here are five subjects that might be more compelling.  Rather than asking a client if they want to be in social media, ask one of these questions.

Want to improve your organic search results?

Start the conversation here. Everyone wants presence on the first page of Google’s search results. And if you get there organically, you’re three times as likely to get clicked on. Best tactic, of course, is to create great content that gets linked to. Convince your clients to make their website a blog, create something new every day (or aggregate it), and be present and engaged on Twitter. Or do it for them. We’re not talking social media here. We’re discussing traffic, awareness, and sales.

Looking for a better way to conduct real time qualitative research?

We all know the artificiality of focus groups. You spend many thousands of dollars on travel and recruitment assuming that in return for $50.00 and a ham sandwich a stranger can tell you whether your storyboard, product idea, or brand positioning is any good.  Introduce your clients to better, faster, cheaper and more reliable feedback about their category, brand and competition. Let them know they can ask questions and get instant answers. Or listen in on ongoing conversations. Eventually you may have to tell them it’s called Twitter and Facebook, but what’s the rush?

Would you like more out of your advertising creative ideas?

Don’t argue against advertising. Clients love their TV spots. They’re big, they define a brand, and they get talked about. (If they’re any good.) But TV spots and campaigns come and go. Start by reminding them that the reason to put everything on Youtube is so bloggers and others can embed it on their sites. But go a step further, too. Encourage clients to invite customers and prospects to create their own versions of the campaign or execution. Heck, in a lot of cases they’re going to do it anyway. But an invitation, a crowdsourcing contest, or just a little encouragement might extend a campaign far beyond the two or three spots in the campaign.  Not to mention develop deeper relationships with prospects than if you only allow them to watch.

Interested in stretching your media dollars?

Who isn’t? Even if an advertiser doesn’t want to “do” social media, they still want greater reach. Yet another reason for embeddable code and presence on YouTube. But why not turn a company’s employees — if they’re willing — into a distribution channel. Give them the means to email Quicktimes of your new spots. Encourage them to share work with friends and family by posting it on their personal social networks. Take advantage of YouTube annotation or something less intrusive like Klickable so the content can actually work for you. Sure this will turn into “social media,” but perhaps starting the conversation with “stretching the budget” will get them more interested.

Looking for ways to increase positive word of mouth?

Even marketers who’ve resisted social media are aware of the fact that a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or peer is 200 times more convincing than a TV commercial. Who, then, could resist an opportunity to create a word of mouth marketing plan?  You could hire one of the really good buzz marketing companies like BzzAgent or Street Attack. But you could also do something as simple as introduce all of your customers to each other, on your site, on Facebook, even on Twitter. Doesn’t matter. But letting them – customers and prospects — ask, answer, respond and share ideas or recommendations with each other is the easiest way to ratchet up word of mouth. Amazon, Dell, Best Buy, American Express are all proving it.

So far I’ve yet to meet a client who isn’t interested in accomplishing all of the above. And guess what? As soon as they say “let’s go,” and you launch a blog, put them on Twitter, invite fans to co-create, make it possible to share video and creative, and introduce their customers to each other, you’re doing social media.

What do you think? Are you still talking about social media? Or something more compelling?

29 comments
Anthony R. Butler
Anthony R. Butler

The larger point here is that clients have a limited interest in talking about technology, social media or anything else in the new world of marketing. They are mostly focused on finding out what you can do for their business.

Had a NB meeting with a client earlier this week. We talked about standard use of Twitter (product announcements/line extensions etc.) and for a blog (industry talk: specifically how technology, environmental regs and the economy are effecting his market segment). He only paid attention when we discussed how his content could be distributed and discussed in free media outlets.

Creativity is very closely linked with achieving better results with less resources. When you're not creative, it ends being more work for less money.

arb:

Marketing-made-simple.com
Marketing-made-simple.com

Brilliant article, social media has become such a huge topic of conversation that people are losing track of its purpose. Brands all of the world are being convinced to get involved with social media without realising it's simply another tool in the arsenal, albeit a powerful one. Marketing professionals should ask themselves if it will help work towards the business objectives before taking the plunge.

John Bardos
John Bardos

Great Post.

It is easy to get caught up in tools and procedures, without really thinking about what the ultimate objectives are.

Businesses are about creating value for others. You do that by cost-effectively creating products or services, letting the world know about that offering and then delivering.

Technology should be used to drive those three steps, it shouldn't be used for the sake of technology itself.
.-= John Bardos´s last blog ..Interview with Digital Nomad Carmen Bolanos =-.

Mariano
Mariano

Edward,

What a way to put this in terms that management can understand. I certainly don't believe that social media is the end-all, but it is a great supplement that can help a business extend its reach and have a better relationship with both customers and partners. We're trying to help businesses see the light here -- we've started a new series on YouTube called "Small Business, Big Voices," which will hopefully help bring to light some of your valuable points above to a wide range of businesses.

Thanks!
.-= Mariano´s last blog ..Help! My site Has Been Blacklisted by Google! =-.

Mike Morris
Mike Morris

Great post! Too many people view social media as "just another thing to do" rather than an extension of what they're already doing, or a way to do it more effectively. Framing the discussion in the way you suggested should be much more likely to generate a positive response. Talking about social media can sometimes prompt a response similar to the comment from the cable company rep in this ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_PqQ5ippgA Maybe approaching social media with a fresh perspective will help change that.

Arafat Kazi
Arafat Kazi

Thanks for such an astute post. Too many people talk about Social Media with capital letters and ignore the reality of our situation, which is that we have unprecedented access to metrics, immediate responses, and interactivity. Best of all, it's just going to get better.

This is daunting, because when everything's possible, then you really have no excuse to limit yourself to three executions, and you have no excuse to not listen to your consumers, and you have no excuse to not be transparent.

Or it's completely exhilarating, depending on which way you look at it.

I guess the 20th century was really an exception in terms of how marketing's been done throughout history. We've always had transparency before mass production became so widespread because of the nature of social structures and production techniques. Then, in the 20th century, we had opaque marketing methods and the ability to hide behind one-way communication media. And now it's back to how it was, just with much richer possibility.

Laurel Miltner
Laurel Miltner

This is certainly an interesting approach. Great information for folks who see social media as the solution, and social networking tools as the strategy. (Especially when there are no clear objectives in mind.)

StevenMoore
StevenMoore

My last 2 meetings I started with if I mention or use the following words in the next 15 mins stop me and make me pay you for your time... Social Media, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, YouTube.
It worked great- we talked about their branding, customer service, competitors positioning, CRM, e-mail program, and where they wanted to be as a company in the next 12 months... Best calls I have had in a while, and it was refreshing for the clients too they have been blasted by the SM tools and tactics by others. Great Post- Thanks

mckra1g
mckra1g

I very much appreciate not only the blogpost, but the exchange via the subsequent comments. By being able to freely exchange ideas through social media itself, we are both reinforcing its utility and helping our clients to communicate....which is why I would assume we're all here.

Exciting time to be in advertising; of that I am sure.

Thanks for taking the time to post. Best, M.
.-= mckra1g´s last blog ..mckra1g: Thx for the RTs, mentions! @adbert @vnoreen @Tachman @3youngguns @brundle_fly @TimWinkler @davemcevers @DonnaMLehman Much appreciated! :) =-.

Bruce DeBoer
Bruce DeBoer

How many "Social Media Specialists" are on Twitter do you suppose? Most of those social media specialists are BS artists, but what isn't BS is the strategy you laid out. The tactics will change - it's all part of the new media plan, true?

Unless you're in ad sales I'm not sure why anyone would want to sell tactics. Seems to me selling tactics would effectively shut down new thinking.
.-= Bruce DeBoer´s last blog ..Don’t Tell Me What to Feel =-.

Paul L'Acosta
Paul L'Acosta

Right to the point Edward. We need to forget about the ways and just focus on the whys and hows. Marketers need to stop worrying about ROIs and spend more time on designing creative and engaging content for their audience. --Paul
.-= Paul L'Acosta´s last blog ..marketingfails: @chriswooster Impressive work on your site. Are those case studies/works you've completed? =-.

Shannon
Shannon

Edward,
Great timing on this post as it helped me to prepare for a big meeting with a potential client to discuss social media. I'll be sure to (not) talk about it it now.
.-= Shannon´s last blog ..Thank You Ad:Tech New York, 2009 =-.

Shea Park
Shea Park

Edward, Thank you yet again for sharing your valuable insight. I love how you balance effective fundamental approaches with all the new chaos out there today. Your clients, readers, and Mullen are fortunate. Shea
.-= Shea Park´s last blog ..Shea_Park: Chaordix thank you for this explanation and video on Why Crowdsource? The Crowdsourcing Engine for Enterprises - http://shar.es/az1JA =-.

Brandon Sutton
Brandon Sutton

Great approach Edward. Much like 'e-marketing' or 'interactive marketing' was scary unknown territory 10 years ago, now it's really just 'marketing.' This is a great reminder that we should focus on the business objectives first, and oh by the way there are social aspects that will help achieve many of them.

I commented on another entry earlier with one of the questions that I like to ask: 'Are you ready to have an honest, open, and ongoing dialog with your customers?' This is either terrifying or exciting to brands, but it's a good question to ask to help frame the discussion. After all, we can't hide the fact that many of the social avenues that are available to explore require ongoing commitment, and thus we have to make sure our clients are ready to see it through or risk alienating the audience if the effort isn't consistent. Great topic - thanks for the post!

Chris Wooster
Chris Wooster

One minor amendment: to achieve good SEO (optimization), you don't necessarily have to switch 100% to a blog-style presentation. It's somewhat neo-fashionable to do that, but there is a long list of tactics you can employ to make even sites that have rich media presentations and "non-blog-like" structural features very friendly to search engines. Of course, such coding is pretty Jedi Master kind of stuff (CSS swapping, DIVs, etc.), but you can get some pretty great results without having to Wordpress your entire site.

But your point is extremely well taken: fresh content, well-promoted and well-visited, is a vital source of SEO mojo.

Ed Hartigan
Ed Hartigan

Thanks for this, Edward. I have been thinking about what are the best 'ins' when working with new clients and the list above are all very hard to say 'no thanks' to.

I think you could also add - "Are you interested in measuring the effects of your communications better?" The tools are available to do this if they can be benchmarked against financial impact. I guess this could fall under your second point...
.-= Ed Hartigan´s last blog ..Measuring success in social media =-.

Stephanie Rogers
Stephanie Rogers

Excellent post, Edward. I'm in total agreement. Staying focused on the business objective, rather than the channel or tool used to achieve it, can not only overcome the inertia in this space but will also deliver the best outcomes.
.-= Stephanie Rogers´s last blog ..Cisco's Augmented Reality Mirror =-.

@studionumber9
@studionumber9

Thanks for laying this out.
Some great points worthy of repeating.
Another possible thing to add to the list is improving customer relationships by establishing an approachable persona and being able to address questions and concerns in a timely manner. Turning critics into fans is a pretty powerful thought.
.-= @studionumber9´s last blog ..H1N1 meets marketing @ shaw’s =-.

Joseph Baird
Joseph Baird

This is very insightful. Managers in most organizations have no idea how to interpret what is going on right now with social media, let alone how to actually start using it properly. In my experience it all must be framed in terms a manager is familiar with, or else it will come across as snake oil.
.-= Joseph Baird´s last blog ..IU’s iPhone Conference 2009 =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Like that title: small business, big voices. That's what social (did I just say that?) lets a brand do. Lots and lots of examples, from Kogi to Gary V, et. al.

edward boches
edward boches

Mike:
As I've suggested for a while, social media as a term will eventually go away as everything will be social. Conversation, sharing, participation, crowdsourcing are here to stay. I have a slide I use a lot. SM is not about Twitter, not about FB, not about YT. It's about relationships between a brand and its customers/prospects.

edward boches
edward boches

Good for you. In all honesty I have to admit that it's a term that others still use and ask for all the time. So even though I don't want to talk about it, sometimes you just have to. That being said, there are better ways to start the conversation.

edward boches
edward boches

At last count there were at least 8,473 social media gurus on Twitter. I think a guru is the same as a specialist or expert.

edward boches
edward boches

Brandon:
That is a great question, though one that still (I don't get it) scares some marketers. It's changing fast, though. If you listen to Gen Y, everyone's favorite next customer, that's what they are demanding.

edward boches
edward boches

That's why there are people like you. To understand all that stuff. Not sure I'm ready to learn CSS swapping, but you never know. Either way, improving your organic search results is something every brand should be working on.

edward boches
edward boches

No doubt about that. We've developed tools and dashboards to track reach, engagement, sentiment and traffic. And obviously you can measure some of those just as a listener and observer.

edward boches
edward boches

Yes. Customer service and customer relationships would be a great place to start the conversation.

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