Social media is still in the early stages of development, and with that comes many questions. I've picked some of the most often asked questions by companies and individuals and have responded with my thoughts. Please let me know whether you agree or disagree.
Q: Are marketers betting already for social media marketing? If they aren't, what do you think they are afraid of?
A: Marketers are afraid of the unknown and also giving up control of their brand. They are also afraid of making mistakes. That is why it's important to fail fast, fail forward, and fail better. You aren't going to get it right the first time so be quick to listen, interact, react, and repeat.
Q: Why do you believe social media is so important?
A: As human beings, we have the dichotomous psychological need to be our own individual, yet we also want to feel like we belong to, and are accepted by, a much larger social set. People are willing to have an "open diary" as a means to stay connected -- as their ultimate desire is to feel accepted.
Part of this lies in a yearning to have a clear understanding of what the majority is doing. It was much easier to know what the majority was doing when all one had to do was tune into Casey Kasem's "American Top 40" to find out the latest and greatest in music or to flip through "Vogue" magazine to quickly grasp every fashion trend. Social media help us make sense of information overload by quickly seeing what our friends find important, helpful, or interesting. It also helps eliminate people performing the same tasks -- if three of your friends have already performed the task (finding a good hotel in Bermuda), why should you be redundant?
Q: Which is the best business model for social media? Is advertising the only way?
A: That is one revenue stream, but there are many more. Think about people exchanging gifts in social media, small businesses setting up their businesses and using PayPal-type functionality (mircopayments), and craigslist-type interplay. There is also search revenue to be had, as people care more about what people think about products and services than an algorithm.
Q: Who is going to lead this new marketing? Big agencies? Specialized agencies? Media agencies? Brands themselves?
A: It's a people-driven economy, stupid -- people will lead the charge. People that shepherd brands (e.g. Scott Monty, Morgan Johnston, Barry Judge) will also play leading roles. Technology development (application development, etc.) will continue to be outsourced to specialists/agencies.
Q: How will social media force the hyper-acceleration of better search results?
A: You're already seeing this. Google recently launched four products that are social in nature: Google Sidewiki, Google Searchwiki, Google Hot Trends, and Google Wave. Google understands its main competition will come from social media. That is why in October we already started to see search deals being cut between Microsoft and Twitter/Facebook. This is only the beginning, but it's happening much sooner than I thought.
Q: Who helps you stay informed?
A: Lee Odden (TopRankBlog) Jeremiah Owyang (Altimeter Group), Mashable, Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff (Groundswell), Chris Brogan & Julien Smith (Trust Agents), Shel Israel (Twitterville), Steve Levitt (Freakonomics), Dale Carnegie books, Laurie Sullivan (MediaPost), Mark Walsh (MediaPost), Dan and Chip Heath ("Made to Stick" and Fast Company), Silicon Alley Insider, David Meerman Scott (The New Rules of Marketing & PR), Abbey Klaassen (AdAdge), CNET "Buzz Out Loud" Podcast with Tom Merritt, Molly Wood, and Jason Howell, Buckhead Church Podcasts, ESPN Fantasy Football Today Podcasts, and of course anything Michigan State Hoops related.
Q: There are many social networks nowadays. Should advertisers try each one, or how should they choose the right ones?
A: Start with the placements that have the best chance for success and progressively grow from there -- eventually you should be everywhere that is contributing to success (however you determine that). If you're engaged and using the tools, it's pretty easy to determine which social media tools your customers are on. If you can't figure this out, Forrester has a good Social Technology Profile Tool that will help direct you to where your customers are.
Q: Do you know an agency that is doing it right in social media? Or a brand?
A: Zappos, Comcast, Ford, JetBlue, Skittles, Starbucks, Ben & Jerry's, Best Buy, Dell, and Virgin are leaders in the space. Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Razorfish have been progressive in this area as well.
Q: What is the "next big thing" in social media marketing?
A: The merging of search and social.
Q: What about those who just want to say, "Enough of this online chatter, I just want to connect with people in the real world"?
A: Social media isn't a zero sum game. Just because you can stay connected with your daughter in college via social media doesn't mean that there isn't a need anymore to meet face to face. Social media is great at keeping people connected when distance/time is a hurdle or limiter. Also, remember that sometimes the opposite can occur -- meeting offline after first meeting online. Think about Mashable's popular Tweet-ups or that one out of eight couples married in the U.S. met online.
Q: Are there things that should always or never be done in social media, things to consider or options to weigh when deciding which one to join (or stop using!)?
A: Fun and common sense -- have plenty of both.
Erik Qualman's #1 Amazon Best Selling book "Socialnomics" can be purchased at all major bookstores and online.
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