Social Media Makes Everything Marketing

hiddenfaceIt’s truly fantastic that so many companies are starting to monitor the social media conversations around their brands and their industry at large. But what’s not fantastic is the reflexive apoplexy when some of those conversations inexorably are less than complementary. I have seen corporate marketers (and even PR firm folks who should know better) get downright bitter and sullen when they find a negative blog post or tweet.

Yes, I know that negativity in social media can have a ripple in the pond effect – it’s word of mouth on steroids. But try to keep some perspective. Most companies would love to have their products rated a “4” on a 5 point scale, right? But that means that 20% off your customers think you have room for improvement.

(if you’re into that kind of ratings/reviews stuff, you might enjoy this post on the psychology of scales – it’s an oldie but a goodie here on C&C)

You know how many people are calling or emailing your customer service department every day with complaints? Probably a lot more than those writing surly blog posts, reviews, or tweets.

Peek A Boo

Historically, marketing has been largely insulated for the customer experience. As Josh Bernoff of Groundswell fame so brilliantly put it:

“The people in charge of talking are in the marketing department. The people in charge of listening are in the research or service or sales department.”

To me, what’s transformative about social media is that it forces marketers to confront the customer experience head-on. If customers have problems, they’ll be uncovered by marketing via social media monitoring and engagement, and by customer service via phone and email and in-person.

In a real-time, social media world, marketing has to react immediately to the successes and shortcomings of operations, product development, legal, finance, customer support, and the idiosyncracies of company personnel (see the Whole Foods CEO imbroglio).

Marketing’s Growing Role

As a marketer, if your job is now going to at least partially be about dealing with wake created by the rest of your company, shouldn’t you be communicating with and talking to those folks on a much more frequent and comprehensive basis than has historically been the case?

If everything now manifests itself in marketing and social media, shouldn’t you not only have a seat at the communications table, but at every table? While the impact of traditional, unidirectional tactics like advertising may wane, does this new confluence of marketing and operations actually herald an era of newfound importance and organizational power for marketers?

Let’s hope so, because when every day could be your “United Breaks Guitars” it’s never been tougher to be a great marketer.

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