We've all heard the age-old saying: the customer is king.
But the evolution of social marketing has taken this adage to a whole new level. Today, the social end user is king. And that king has more power than ever before.
For brands, this is critical. Specifically, understanding how and why this balance has shifted is a prerequisite to social campaign success.
For example, consider the traditional experience of "opting in." We volunteer personal data and give a brand permission to contact us; essentially, we trade data and access for information and inclusion. But this exchange also shifts the balance of power in favor of the brand. They control the frequency and intensity of the relationship, pushing out content when and how they choose. Only at that point can users react by engaging, ignoring, or unsubscribing altogether.
However, this balance of power is completely reversed in social. We're able to proactively access the latest content from any brand at any time and can do so fairly anonymously. "Opting in" - i.e., gaining information or inclusion from a desired brand - really just means navigating to that brand's Twitter feed or Facebook page and engaging as we like. And unless we virtually raise our hands - by liking, following, commenting, or otherwise interacting with what we see - the brand doesn't know much about us at all.
For the end user, this is incredibly empowering. And it creates a set of expectations of how we think social should work for us. Expectations of control (we choose how and when we consume social content). Expectations of accessibility (a brand is only a tweet away). Expectations of speed (we want the latest information, and we want it now).
Why This Matters to Marketers
These expectations also reflect a larger paradigm: in social, brands are not in the position of power. End users are. That means you can't just craft the perfect tweet or design the world's sexiest Facebook app and expect users to come running. Success hinges more on the internal: the psychology of a social user and what motivates her action (or inaction).
This is especially important for brands looking to run interactive social campaigns, ones based on experiences and actions, not just consumption of content. Specifically, the psychology of social users translates into critical factors that can make or break campaign success.
Some of these factors are fairly obvious - including tone and type of content offered, when and where to post, and how a campaign is presented - and well-covered throughout the rest of this site. But I want to draw your attention to three factors that don't get as much attention, but ultimately play a huge role in determining how a campaign performs.
Social doesn't just change the means through which we engage with customers. It changes the very balance of power inherent in that relationship. It's also a moving target. For as established as social is now, it continues to evolve, particularly in the recognition of the psychological and sociological factors that drive user behavior.
Successful marketing means staying at the forefront of understanding these shifts. What worked a year ago in social may not necessarily work today - not because it's any less of a great idea or campaign, but because the space has changed and users' decisions and actions are driven by ever-developing and ever-shifting motivators.
Today, more than ever, the social user is king. And the brands that account and adjust for its continued evolution are the ones that'll succeed both now and tomorrow.
Image on home page via Shutterstock.
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John Lee is Manager, Brand and Social Marketing at Webtrends. In 2012, he was recognized by PR Daily for creating both the year's "Best Branding Campaign" and "Event of the Year." Follow him on Twitter @lee_john.
March 19, 2014