Leave Your Ego at the Door

When it comes to dipping your toes in, or taking a giant swan dive into the social media “pool,” no one cares what your swimsuit looks like or how you look in it. That’s basically saying nobody really cares about “you” per se, so you need to leave your ego checked at that pool room door. In the world of social media, it’s about what the community and its members think, not about what you the company or you the product or service owner thinks.

That’s a pretty tough pill to swallow when you want to get a certain marketing message across. Trying to get some traditional marketers and public relations practitioners to understand that the old ways of marketing don’t work in the social media world is a feat all its own.

Who knows your marketing message better than your marketing and PR people right? They know how to get it out there and get people to listen, right?

With social media, it’s an entirely different ballgame. When it comes to social media, finely crafted marketing messages are met with deaf ears, distaste, scorn, and possibly even hate.

All of this can be very bruising to an ego who’s worked hard on honing a marketing message. The trick? Don’t take this to heart.

With social media, marketers and public relations practitioners must realize they’re no longer in control of the message. That’s right, leave control behind because it’s the customer and the community who are now defining what’s of value.

Customers can now take your messages and turn them into their own creations, like one such fan did with some of Apple’s marketing around the iPod Touch, or like the Eepy Bird guys did with Diet Coke and Mentos.

Is your company and your marketing team open to letting go of “ownership” and understanding customers and audiences have a lot more influence now than ever before, like both Apple and Mentos did? Or would the reaction be more like Coke’s was initially, where it rebuffed a new way completely devoid of their own marketing message for their Diet Coke product (Coke eventually came around)?

Social media allows consumers and audiences to be part of an experience with a brand, service or product in ways they never had been before. From uploading videos of un-boxing products as they arrive and are opened, to photos of artwork involving the integration of beloved brands or icons, to community forums discussing different uses for products and services that companies never intended, the consumer now can turn a carefully crafted marketing message on its ear in one click of a mouse.

Not only that, one person can potentially influence hundreds, or even thousands, of other community members who are just as passionate as they are to embrace what they’ve put out there, or encourage them to create their own new type of marketing message.

When it comes to the best uses or perceived best value of your products or services, again, while you created it and think you know every little in and out of what you are putting out there, stop for a moment before you set foot into a community forum or message board and take all of those thoughts out of your mind. Be open to learning from your customers.

It’s surprising what you can learn by spending a few weeks in a forum, listening to the conversations going on about you, your product, or your industry. What you thought you knew, you’ll soon find out, was limited by a very narrow scope of view.

Most companies have tunnel vision when it comes to their product or service. With social media, companies now have access to the world’s largest and most brutally honest focus group on the planet. The only limitation marketers face in this is being able to get over their egos long enough to realize what a gem this type of information is.

Social media can help marketers craft messages that are more in tune with what audiences are really finding valuable, and can also help companies develop products and services that fill the needs of their customers. To benefit, companies need only be open and embrace the idea that this new type of media and communication isn’t out to steal their thunder; it’s there to help consumers share their experiences with the things they love the most.

This process can be difficult for some companies. There may be a lot of customer anger to work through before they can really begin to see the benefits from social media. This requires developing a thick skin.

Social media users can be quite passionate about objects, brands, or services they identify with. Understanding that most of the time it’s not really “you” (as a person) they’re venting about, it’s the object or service, can help company employees weather the storm of anger they can come across at first.

When companies can listen to both the positive and the negative without going into defense mode, that’s when they can begin to take full advantage of the benefits social media has to offer. By dropping the ego and embracing what your audience has to say, not only does the consumer benefit, but the company benefits as well.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies Toronto, June 8-10, 2009, at the Sheraton Centre Toronto.

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