A Case Against Social Marketing

In 2012 I was interviewed by the good people at MITX. I recently stumbled upon this post and was excited to find that while some of the companies I mentioned are no longer around, the concepts I advocated for have continued to hold true.


Q: How is the new technology landscape changing social marketing?    

A: The new technology landscape is changing everything.

Technology is changing our behavior. It changes how we interact with each other and with our environments. It enables innovation. But more importantly, to answer your question, it’s changing social marketing. Technology advances have allowed us to create new communication channels and tools to connect to one another (and yes, market to our consumers). Technology is what allows these tools integrate with each other. Technology is what improves and evolves these tools over time.

Technology makes it easier for us to share and create content and helps make our behavior on social media seamless with our everyday behavior. Take Springpad, for example. It is already a part of our behavior to bookmark and take notes (especially online), but technology enabled the Springpad team to build and power a tool that made these actions an even better experience for us. Same thing with Instagram - we are already taking pictures, but now we can make them better, share them better.


Q: What do marketers need to understand now and in the future in order to be prepared for these changes?

A: Start by realizing that social marketing is not a thing.

It never was a thing. “Social media” is just a term someone made up to give an umbrella name to the online channels where people converse. “Social marketing” is just marketing in these “social media” channels. Do people call it “radio marketing”? No. Marketing via TV or the Radio or any other channel is JUST marketing. Social media is just another place people are creating and consuming and talking. When we start to look at things holistically, the future is going to look a lot less scary.

Stop worrying so much about what’s new or what’s next or how to prepare. You can't. Don’t worry about knowing everything about the hottest tools. Start getting interested in behavior. Why do people make the choices they make? Why do they shop how they shop? Why do they browse the web the way they do? Worry about how your product or service is fitting into the changes in people’s behaviors and consider the implications. For example, we all know that people prefer to shop “socially” by reading peer reviews. How are you creating a shopping experience that caters to this behavior?

We need to talk (read: market) less, and listen more.