For the last 10 years, marketers have been trying to leverage social media as a sales channel. It’s been a messy proposition at best, due to how people use these social tools. Social media tools are used by people to create and share content about themselves.
But for smart companies, this creates an enormous sales opportunity. The key isn’t to leverage social media as a sales channel, but to instead leverage social media as a listening channel that can better inform brands about who their customers are and what they want. This has always been the case. Granted, I’m no fan of how we are getting away from having truly social interactions with these tools and instead are becoming an army of social narcissists, but even that does create an opportunity for smart brands to learn more about their customers. As customers are creating content about who they are and what they want, that content can be analyzed, and insights can be gained into those same customers and how to better market to them.
The great promise that social media offers for brands has never been about leveraging the tools as a way to sell directly to customers. It’s always been about better understanding those customers so you can create more effective and efficient marketing…that increases sales.
Some companies have been proactively analyzing the content their customers create online and are adjusting their marketing to make it more inline with who their customers are and what they want. The result are broadcast commercials like this from The North Face:
And this from Red Bull:
Notice in both commercials (both of which currently have over 7 Million views on YouTube), the product itself takes a secondary role to the customers themselves. The North Face isn’t selling its clothing, it is selling the activities you engage in after you put on its clothing. Red Bull isn’t selling an energy drink, it’s selling what you do after you drink it. In both cases, the marketing isn’t about the product, it’s about the customers and the activities that they love engaging in. This makes the marketing message more interesting and relevant to those customers. And by extension, the brand bringing you that marketing becomes more interesting and relevant as a result.
This is the great promise of social media for brands: Gaining a better understanding of your customers. By first investing the time to learn who your customers are and why they use these tools, you can then have an intelligent conversation with them that comes from a place of understanding, not ignorance. Listen first, learn, adjust, and move forward with better marketing. This is why I’ve always been so excited about social media from a business standpoint, the potential for better understanding customers and creating more interesting and relevant marketing communications as a result. For decades, most marketing has devolved into nothing more than a nuisance and irritant. This is to a great extent simply because the brands creating that marketing don’t understand their customers well enough to create an interesting marketing message for them.
Now, thanks to social media, companies finally have a way to get a better understanding of what their customers want and who they are on a grand scale. Commercials like those above only begin to scratch the surface of what marketing could look like when it’s created from a customers’ point-of-view.
Listen. Engage. Improve. Do those things in that order, and your marketing communications will become more effective, and the sales will come. There’s never been a time to be more excited about the future of marketing than right now.