Build an Ice Cream Truck
That's my advice to social marketers. Confused? Well, first let me describe my view of social media.
Social media and conversations are not a natural place to advertise. When I'm sitting down with a few friends for a beer and some idle banter I'm not looking for someone to come up and sell me on something. In fact, it's one of the quickest ways I can think of to irritate the hell out of me.
But that's just what many seem to think is appropriate for the online version of that same conversation.
Even if I'm talking about a product or service, say we're debating cell phone carriers and lamenting our most recent phone bills. That is not the time to pull a chair up at my table and ask "Did you know, AT&T has more bars in more places!?"
If you begin to think of social media as the front stoop or the local corner where people hang out and shoot the breeze you can understand the difficulty of effectively reaching and interacting with them. The context of their conversation is miles away from a purchase decision.
Instead, think about things that can motivate people to break from that context. Something that will cause them to stop their conversations and instead motivate them to take action.
Build an Ice Cream Truck.
The Ice Cream Truck has a product and they have a delivery mechanism that stops conversations and inspires purchase. You hear that distinctive song warbling down the block and you're taking orders from family members and making sure you've got your wallet!
Here's what people don't want. They don't want inventory updates from the Ice Cream Truck. They don't particularly care that the Ice Cream Truck got a brand new paint job. They don't need to understand Ice Cream Truck mechanics and supply chain management strategy.
They don't want to have a conversation with the Ice Cream Truck.
They want their Choco Taco!
Don't get me wrong, brands and products should still have a voice in social media and that voice should be "open, natural and uncontrived." Hopefully this leads to positive word-of-mouth, a viral transmission of product attributes and creates brand evangelists.
Conversations with products and brands are not social conversations.
The context of a social conversation and a brand conversation are completely different. And trying to mix the two together is a good way to torpedo your social marketing efforts. Brands really don't want you to be their friend, they want you to buy their product! Deep down I suspect most people understand this motivation.
Conversations have their place but developing the Ice Cream Truck - whatever that might be - is where marketers should be investing more of their time.
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