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Just Because I Can Buy A Scalpel

Today, Leonard Sipes posted a narritive in GovLoop ; a nich social marketing wateringhole that focuses on the Federal space. My take-away from his post was that social marketing is cheap and necessary – thus everyone should be doing it … just hire community college students to do it for you.

The social web is the wild west. Your organizations reputation is out there to be discussed, commented upon, and banged around like a piniata. Being able to write FBML and manage a tweet deck and having been on facebook since it was MySpace does not make you a marketer, the same way that my owning a scalple does not make me a surgeon.

Consumers are stalked, targeted, algoed, re-targeted, sliced, diced and delivered in way that ten years ago, only an evil genius would have imagined. The force unleashed when technology and branding colided is evoloutinary. The massive consumer shift from hunting and gathering on the web to reliance on casual constellations of people exchanging information ala the watercooler is a profound, and at the core is an idea of trust and respect – the new digital comodity.


Marketing success comes from sophisticated strategies that involve harnessing the power of social media. Deftly managing consumer demographics, trends, behavior, user experience, value propositions, branding, messages and the two way conversation that is at social medias core are the skills that required to win in this space. Further, strategic messages are amplified effectively with orgizational policies that govern the social engangement that most of your staff is already doing. Listening is vital and understanding the scalability of successful campaigns are not just mental excercises.

I caution industry from investing too much time into a “if-you-build-it-they-will-come” social media strategy. I am not knocking Community College Students – there are a couple at my house now painting. Reach out to marketing experts to help guide the messages and deliver a high value, relevant user experience that creates affinity. Anything less is throwing your energy into the cocophany of noise that consumers are tuning out at alarming rates.

Or, just give away a lot of free stuff. But if you do, understand the difference between being popular and being relevant.

cool info graphic from Jays Marketing Blog

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Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Great post, Tina, and thanks for sharing that infograph!

Early evidence based on my experience is that Facebook advertising is effective.

The very bottom of the infograph suggests that companies are spending a lot of money on advertising on social media, but that they’re likely not achieving their goals since people don’t “regularly turn to social media” for making a purchase decision. I’m not sure that’s how it happens. I think people learn about a product on social media, then make a purchasing decision based on that encounter…vs. thinking about buying something and turning to social media for feedback. Granted, people do both (“Hey, everyone, what’s the best X in your opinion?”)…but you can’t not have a presence on social media if that’s where a significant number of people in your target market are spending their time.

Agree with you here: rather than “build it and they’ll come,” it’s much more a “be where they are” approach.

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Profile Photo Erik Kulvinskas

I’m not sure I agree with everything you have said in your article. It reeks of the same type of attitude and jargon that elitist web developers touted in days gone by. Social media marketing takes a lot of common sense, not a lot of money or a complicated marketing manual. The statement, ‘Marketing success comes from sophisticated strategies that involve harnessing the power of social media.’ is a very elitist attitude and negates a lot of how the social marketing ecosystem grew to where it is today – regular people using common sense to get the word out about their product/service/whatever. I think there needs to be a plan, for sure, but this plan does not need to be something that rivals the blueprints of the space shuttle. Simply put, the most basic and effective social media strategy involves engaging those that want your information/service/product by providing a presence on one or more of the outlets and also responding and extending the conversation of your customers beyond the single post.

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Profile Photo Kevin Lanahan

Tina, I definitely agree that the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy doesn’t work without a fundamental understanding of marketing. But marketing isn’t rocket science. If you understand your mission and your audience, social media is a great way of engaging them.

The problem is that too many organizations never get to that level of understanding. I see hospitals, appliance stores and pest control companies urging me to go to their facebook pages. Why? After I make my purchase, do I ever have to go back? Do I want a relationship with them? No.

Now, my coffee shop, diner, bike shop or government, those I have a relationship with.

As far as ads, what do you hope to achieve by them? Government agencies already have multiple ways of advertising, and including links to social media can be piggy-backed on to news releases, web pages, staff emails and physical letters. If your agency has a targeted campaign (buy hunting permits! Get tax advice!), advertising may makes sense, but should be done cautiously.

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Profile Photo Tina Bagapor-O'Harrow

Hi Eric,

You stress the the social web grew up around people talking to people, I wholeheartedly agreed… but then industry came knocking. Spelling aside, I am saying: if you want people to participate in a conversation that garners recognition for your specific service / good, etc, understand what is relevant to the people you engange. Reward them for hawking your products. Also, be strategic. Regarding success; certainly, there are businesses that have recognized an ROI without an integrated marketing strategy. There are businesses that have been successful without a well honed business plan. But research will show you that being sophisticated in your approach will time and again, net better results that not.

Kevin; Regarding advertising for The Feds on Facebook – It may be more appropriate to use the term, “Public Service Announcements” rather than advertising. Unfortunately, The key differentiator is that Ads, in the sense that I am discussing, are paid for -Vs- earned or PSA placements (less controled, less deliberate.)

Some examples of advertising for the Government include; Recalls (CPSC), Vaccine Information (CDC), Terror Threats (Homeland Security) Travel Warnings (State), Food Guide Changes (USDA), Tax Assistance (IRS); the list goes on-and-on. While there will be a certain level of “sharing” of this vital information in the social web – there are times a good old fashoned “buy” is the best way to achieve mass awareness.

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Profile Photo Tina Bagapor-O'Harrow

Hi Robert; The heart of the concept I was trying to convey has everything to do with relevance. Just because we can send missives to our potential customers 24/7, doesn’t mean we should. Traditional direct response advertising gets pretty low engangement in many instances, but the gross impressions generated become the another value measurement.

GovLoop is a good idea. The challenge is that

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Profile Photo Tina Bagapor-O'Harrow

Hi Robert, govloop has failed in that the user experience is flawed. I take the time to write a comment – and when I go to spell check it – it dissapears never to be seen again (recall my comment about rewarding participants for their contributions?) My response is clipped – etc. etc. I have found that Linkedin has areas that are similar to what govloop is trying to do, and the membership has reached critical mass enough that UGC is plentiful and current. I can edit a post w/out it dissapearing or being clipped. While I had hoped this was going to be a great watering hole for people in the fed space, I have found it confounding. So, I bid you adeau! And if there are typos – I am sorry, I can’t spell check here w/ out deleting the post. Probably doesn’t play well with Safari?!

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