While this is going to sound like we’re banging our own SociaLens drum here, it is clear that social media marketing is changing many of the ways that organizations carry out their marketing efforts. One major change is the shift of marketing dollars toward human capital in the form of education and the encouragement to use social media as part of most every job function. Why?
- Social media marketing requires decentralization
- Decentralization requires literacy
- Social media are (generally) less expensive
Let’s go a little deeper into these three, shall we?
1. Social media marketing requires decentralization
Because social media is built on personal relationships between real people, brands hoping to engage their customers there will have to play by those rules. But personal relationships require real interactions with real people – which takes a lot more person-power than shooting a broadcast commercial or sending out a flyer. It may therefore be necessary to get more than just the marketing department involved in reaching out to customers. Online shoe retailer Zappos.com, for example, empowers every one of their customer service people to use Twitter and YouTube (notice that the people in the video are not marketers) to reach out to customers. This is not only a customer service function, but ends up being a powerful marketing tool as well, as those interactions build the Zappos brand through word of mouth. The page of Zappos Twitter users bears this out as well, where Zappos_George, their customer loyalty person, is only the 5th most active “Twitterer,” behind the CEO, the HR director, and the COO.
2. Decentralization requires literacy
The more any organization decentralizes, the smarter its people have to be. This isn’t just true in marketing. Montesquieu says in the famous political treatise The Spirit of Laws
that “It is in a republican government that the whole power of education is required.” To translate: when you give power to the society, that society needs to know how to use that power. Similarly, in order to empower employees outside of the marketing department to use social media effectively, an organization needs to ensure that they have a certain level of social media literacy. They will need to know how to use the tools, how to respond to customer criticism, and what sorts of norms need to be adhered to in social online communities. Zappos.com famously uses part of their initial training hours to get their people up to speed on how to use Twitter.
3. Social media are (generally) less expensive
Because customers can (and oftentimes should) be engaged on free/inexpensive sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc., the information technology costs involved are, by traditional standards, extremely low. As an example, despite their sizable marketing budget, Dell Computers makes extensive use of the free Twitter platform, as does Southwest Airlines, Comcast and many other large companies. As a result, the money which may otherwise have been sunk into building an expensive web presence can be shifted instead toward human investments in the education of, and time spent by, the people who engage customers through those platforms.
So to recap, for organizations to really engage customers through social media, they will have to question many of the assumptions on which they’ve built their marketing models over the past few years, and begin to consider human capital investment. These will probably take the form of social media literacy education on all levels, and then the encouragement to use social media as a part of every job function.
Original Photos: Jacob Bøtter