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Awaiting the Invitation

  |  May 15, 2012   |  Comments

The role of social media is about listening and providing value that supports the constant consumer dichotomy.

Today more than ever brands are grappling with the role of social media. Most marketers have accepted the need for it but very few have figured out how to do it well.

When thinking about this column, I went back and forth between two headlines: "Awaiting the Invitation" or "Requesting an Invitation." I settled with "awaiting" because I believe the consumer has all the control. Their relationship with social starts with a user's psyche and brands should be invited into the conversation.

In April, I attended the GSMI (Global Strategic Management Institute) Social Media Strategies Conference. There were many great speakers but a couple key speakers stood out. The first day opened up with Marcy Massura, digital supervisor, Weber Shandwick, the keynote presenter. In her presentation she delivered a nice summary on why consumers like social media:

  • Identity. It is a way for users to express who they are; it is a digital representation of personality.
  • Validation. Whether real or perceived, social media provides immediate gratification in the forms of fans, followers, "likes," retweets, etc.
  • Adulation. Similar to validation, it is an open platform for consumers to receive positive feedback.
  • Power to publish. Immediacy in content delivery; it is an open, always-on distribution network for updates, short-form and long-form posts, comments, tweets, etc.
  • Communication. In its most basic form, it is a utility for which most users communicate.

Following Marcy's thoughtful presentation, I also attended a session on what big data is telling us, hosted by Matt LeMay, platform manager, bitly. He spent some time speaking to the differences in who a consumer is vs. who they want to be. Another psychological dynamic we as marketers need to prepare for. Marketers must realize that who people want to be impacts how they share, react, and interact.

The reason I highlight these two sessions is because consumers' emotional and rational reasons for participation represent a foundation for which brands should consider their approach. The question should be, how can we help fuel the reasons a consumer needs social media? In turn, marketers can create a reason for consumers to interact with your brand.

I don't believe social media is a tactic; it is a marketing foundation - it represents so much more than just pushing a message:

  • A listening platform. Find out what consumers are talking or complaining about, what they think, and what they are looking for, which directly informs your approach.
  • A real-time, ever adapting database. Social CRM: we have access to an overwhelming amount of consumer data and insight; how we harness it simply is the struggle (all data created until 2003 is equal to data now created every two days).
  • A publishing platform. PR and content distribution; news breaks here first.

It's clear for advertisers and brands: the role of social media is about listening and providing value that supports the constant consumer dichotomy. If you are doing something right, your customers are already telling you; if you are doing something wrong, your customers are already telling you. This is good news (really it is). If structured correctly, you can take this feedback and immediately make changes; even small adjustments can be big if realized by the right person.


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Jessica Richards

As an account director for Media Contacts in New York, the interactive division of Havas Digital, Jessica is responsible for strategy development and media plan execution across a variety of clients and industries. Jessica has a wide range of digital experience, managing both brand initiatives and aggressive acquisition efforts. Her knowledge extends across many facets of digital marketing from traditional media and mobile to channel planning and social execution.

Prior to Media Contacts, Jessica was at One to One interactive in Boston, managing the B2C and B2B media campaigns for several clients. Jessica's work has won several industry awards for best use of sponsorship, mobile, and display strategy.

Jessica's career expertise started at Mullen, where she was a media planner on a broad range of traditional media.

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