Marketing to People

We marketers can easily forget whom we are marketing to. We get so caught up in analytics and creative that we often overlook and rarely evaluate the human factor as it relates to our marketing campaigns. Society is shifting from offline media being the primary communication methods to e-mail, IM, and social networking as the primary, if not sole, communication tools. We must address our audience again.

Look at things like use cases, communication preferences, and of course emotional response to messages in those media. In essence, we must understand the human element of our marketing efforts and reevaluate what the means to our brand, campaign effectiveness, and overall relationship with our audience.

There’s a great human experiment unfolding before us that really hits the heart of what I mean by marketing to the human element: social networking. I’ve written about how Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be used for marketing and business tools, but to grasp the essence of how to use these tools you must observe and participate in this social experiment. If you’re actively engaged in these three networks and use e-mail, you know what I am talking about.

As you participate in the social experiment, questions arise. Questions like:

  • Do I direct-message (DM) him after he tweets something interesting to start a conversation, or do I just retweet his comment to continue the open conversation for all to see?

  • Do I connect with her on Facebook to open a further the business relationship or just connect with her on LinkedIn?
  • Will he be cool if I post on his wall how I feel about his status or is that only for friends?
  • Should I feed my Twitter updates to my Facebook Status updates to keep all abreast of my goings on?
  • Can I e-mail her now that we’ve had a dialogue on Facebook?
  • Do I friend my boss or client when I get his friend request?

And on it goes. The human element really comes down to social networking etiquette. At some point, society determined that yelling in a communal place was not acceptable, that asking someone to be your friend before you actually got to know her was the order of events; and that there’s an appropriate time to get someone’s address or phone number. They all morphed into social norms that we follow almost without thinking. But the rules for communicating online are fuzzy, and for those who didn’t grow up with electronic communications, this type of communication is all new and not quite natural.

Getting a feel for the rhythm and social norms of these social media will help you avoid shouting when you should be conversing and being introduced before asking for a friendship with someone. So here are three quick tips to help guide you in your social networking relationships:

  • One medium at a time. The messages you post on Twitter are rarely appropriate for any other medium, Facebook included. Facebook is built for learning more about people, seeing photos, and connecting on a more personal level. Twitter is for publishing useful (or banal) information to those who follow you. Feeding your Twitter updates to your Facebook status is a gross misuse of the media, encouraging folks to shut you out on a personal level. Same applies for e-mail. You wouldn’t e-mail someone a tweet, nor would you tweet an e-mail.

  • Everyone or one. Wall posts, tweets using handles or hash tags, and comments on blogs are ways to communicate your feelings about something to both the author/originator and the wider network. The only good time to do that is when the author is encouraging such communications. Wall posts in response to a status update are appropriate, as are a tweet with someone’s handle to give more props to an issue and comments at the end of a blog post. But it’s not appropriate to say, “Hey, what are you doing tonight, honey?” on someone’s wall. That private conversation is best saved for IM, DM on Twitter, or a Facebook message. Be sure when you’re posting to the public, you do so in support of that person.
  • Networking vs. your network. So many in my generation (30-49 years old) use LinkedIn as a way to connect to peers, friends, or someone they met at a conference. That is fine as long as expectations are set low. LinkedIn doesn’t facilitate a deeper relationship, foster conversation, or even give you any real insight beyond a person’s resume. So if you want to build your list, LinkedIn is fine. Otherwise, Facebook is more appropriate for building a relationship and Twitter is best for building a following, and really, this is for speakers, authors, and organizations that are follow-worthy. Remember: LinkedIn for the network; Facebook for networking, and Twitter for building a fan base.

Once you understand the human element of social networks, you can start using them appropriately for marketing and strategic efforts. Get involved, but do it as a person first, then as a marketer.

And don’t forget: commenting on columns like this is great way to get the author’s attention!

Meet Aaron at Search Engine Strategies San Jose, August 10-14, 2009, at the McEnery Convention Center.

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