Can You Control Social Marketing?

I had a potential client make an inquiry to me yesterday afternoon. They asked me about developing an application which would ultimately be used to gather phone numbers. The one problem with the model is that the proposed system didn’t provide much value to the user in exchange for them providing the phone number. Somehow though, the application was supposed to spread virally to the masses who would all in turn enter their phone number. It didn’t make much sense to me.

Society is Focused on Overnight Success
I can’t tell you how often someone calls me to request the development of an application that will instantly spread to the masses. When I ask them what the application is going to provide to the user, they say that they don’t know but they just want it to spread virally. People are focused on being successful for the sake of being successful. Too frequently they don’t think about the value being provided to the user, just that they want to be “successful” and get lots of users.

This is clearly the wrong attitude and I choose not to work with people that focus on the end game and not how they’re going to get there.

Marketing Just Got Harder, Not Easier
For large organizations, marketing and advertising used to simply consist of large advertisements plastered on billboards, printed in magazines and newspapers and played on radio and television. While this is an oversimplification of marketing and advertising in the past, one things is for sure: marketing is no longer simple.

There are now countless channels to interact with the consumer and choosing which one to use is a balancing act. Social marketing requires building relationships with the customer. Building relationships is not easy, it takes time. Anybody that thinks they can simply slap up a simple application and have millions of users that eventually become paying customers is definitely misguided.

There’s Still a Huge Opportunity
While marketing and advertising may now be more complex, there is also more opportunity to directly interact with your customers like never before. By leveraging social marketing via social applications, blogs and blog outreach, Twitter and other social tools, you can directly reach out to your potential customers and existing customers to help build brand awareness.

Twitter versus Facebook
One thing that I’ve been thinking about recently is leveraging Twitter versus Facebook for marketing purposes. Let’s say that there are customers talking about your product on Facebook and Twitter. How are you going to find those people on Facebook? You can do a search for groups and fan pages but that’s about it. How about wall posts and status updates of people on Facebook? Unfortunately you can’t track those.

On Twitter though, you can find each individual that has mentioned your company and reach out to them directly. I have previously written about my experience with Comcast on Twitter. Zappos and a handful of other companies are also playing it smart when it comes to Twitter. The best part is that you can reach out to every individual that ever mentions your brand.

Can You Control It?
As I mentioned at the beginning, too often are people focused on instant success while not focused on providing amazing value. The benefit of social marketing is that products and services spread virally. This is really nothing new given that word of mouth marketing was around prior to the internet, it’s just that we have new ways to spark word of mouth campaigns and track what people are saying about us.

The reality is that you can’t control social marketing, you can only participate in the conversation and participating frequently means starting the conversation. Provide value and amazing customer service and people will talk about your company. You can then use web-based social marketing channels to monitor the spread of your brand and help magnify the signal by interacting directly with your customers. Do you think it’s possible to control social marketing?