by Kenneth Rudich
Long before social media marketing came into existence my father was an avid vegetable gardener. Nothing could beckon him quite like that little patch of top soil sitting nestled at the edge of the yard. He loved to work it just as much as he could — tilling and fertilizing and tilling some more; measuring out rows and planting the seeds; watering it daily and trimming back weeds.
The hours turned into days, the days into weeks, and the weeks into months. By the time it was ready for harvest it was a veritable island of abundance and variety, far more than a small family like ours could possibly eat. And since my father loathed waste as much as he loved gardening, he’d gather the excess and give it to neighbors and friends.
In retrospect, I think he enjoyed this part the best, because people didn’t let him just drop by and leave. No sir. They invited him to stay for a while, maybe sip lemonade or drink a cold beer. Sometimes they broke out the horseshoes and played until dusk. Other times they sat on the porch swapping stories and laughs. As the night wore on and the moon smiled down from its perch up above, the mood was graciously infectious and always endearing.
Now that those days are behind I can see that my father actually cultivated more friendships than gardens. No wonder that patch of top soil expanded in size with each passing year. The yield that it gave was only half of the story.
Gardening and social media marketing have a lot more in common than you might otherwise think. In both cases, it’s not what you plant but what you cultivate from it.
the woo, woo, woo of social media marketing
Social media marketing is clearly on the upswing as brand conscious marketers are racing to incorporate blogs, micro-blogging, wikis, media sharing, online forums, and social networking into their promotion initiatives. Describing it as an explosion probably doesn’t come close to reflecting just how big it really has become.
But “doing it” and “doing it well” are not necessarily one and the same, especially if you’re looking for fast results or immediate gratification. Social media puts a woo woo woo into the process of wooing customers. Gone are the days when winning mere customer loyalty was enough. Now, if you’re going to harness all that social media has to offer, you must seek to sway customers into becoming advocates, too. And that, more often than not, takes plenty of time and some serious cultivation. It requires an endless campaign of engaging them in an ongoing conversation. This means having real and genuinely meaningful exchanges, and getting to know them really well. It may also take some finesse to spur them into having meaningful exchanges with others about your product or service. If successful, these exchanges can produce an ever-expanding sphere of influence over time.
An earlier post of mine, “Three Words Describe Marketing,” advanced the idea that marketing can be boiled down into creating awareness, interest, and action (note: I began the article with a caveat that this was from marketing 101 – you know, keep it simple stupid). In the fall 2009 issue of Moosylvania’s report on marketing trends, however, they divide social media marketing into six discrete steps, and you can clearly see the insinuation of a “social” influence in their version:
- Attention: another way of saying, creating awareness.
- Interest: arousing consumers to want to learn more.
- Engagement: when consumers decide they want to interact with the product.
- Endearment: when consumers have interacted with the product/service long enough to form an opinion or purchase decision.
- Sharing: when consumers have experienced the product long enough to develop a degree of expertise about it, and start to share their opinions with other people.
- Advocacy: when customers proactively promote or criticize the brand based on their experience, and they do it in a variety of social venues.
The way I figure it, this six step process adds at least two more woo’s to the single woo I’d suggested in the marketing 101 version. And that takes me back to the tireless effort my father put into his garden, because he always went well beyond where others would stop. His garden became a vehicle for creating and maintaining relationships. Now social marketers must do the same, too.
parts 2, 3 and 4
In Part 2, we’ll explore whether social media marketing is for you. Part 3 will pursue a more in-depth look at the concept of cultivating a social media strategy — maintaining due diligence, monitoring (listening), and adjusting as needed. And in part 4, we’ll look at some actual cases—and how the challenges differ between larger organizations and small businesses, and what each must consider for effectively addressing those challenges.