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Friday, Nov. 7, 2008 at 6:42 am

Understanding and Aligning the Value of Social Media

By Bryan Eisenberg
November 7th, 2008

align around peopleThe economy still weighs heavily on everyone’s mind, and we’re seeing drastic changes in traffic patterns. Hopefully, with changes in the U.S. political climate, things will turn around a bit.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve also been watching many self-proclaimed marketing gurus speak of social media’s role in filling in the gap during the economic downturn. While social media should be a part of any forward-thinking and transparent company, I would urge caution if you believe that you can monetize it easily or quickly. It’s also not a magic pill for traffic building.

But for those who think I’m a naysayer, I must admit I am a social media addict. I will also go on the record to say that you can successfully use social media for marketing.

The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the traditional sense. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all the others I don’t have the word count to mention aren’t media; they are platforms for interaction and networking. All the traditional media — print, broadcast, search, and so on — provide platforms for delivery of ads near and around relevant content. Social media are platforms for interaction and relationships, not content and ads.

To be truly effective using these interaction platforms, you must understand why we use them.

Real-Life Example

Before Halloween I teamed up with Chris Brogan to play a game using Twitter. We called it Trick or Tweet. Here were our rules:

  1. Send a tweet to someone and ask, “Trick or tweet?”
  2. If they say, “Tweet,” you must provide them with a couple of interesting people they should follow. If you don’t provide them with someone new, then you owe a trick.
  3. If they say, “Trick,” send them a link where they will have to contribute to charity using the ChipIn widget. The maximum we ask anyone to donate is $20 for the day. Every cent we collect will be sent to charity.

We raised $282. Not too bad. But more important, we learned more about what moves people to take action. We learned that people loved to play but are less willing to pay.

As of this writing, Twitturly shows there were 150 tweets with an estimated reach of more that 165,000. This only measures the number of people who sent the link around, though there were many others playing. Clearly it was a successful game, but the metrics didn’t translate into the big money I had hoped for charity.

While this is an anecdotal example, it demonstrates social media’s power to reach and engage people — on their terms, not yours. People are attracted to people. People used the game mostly to connect with other people.

Social media isn’t an advertising and branding platform; it’s a hyper-interactive relationship-builder. Social media isn’t a magic pill for traffic woes; it’s used to deepen longer-term relations.

When you engage in social media, you enter into an unspoken social contract. You are in a relationship; it goes both ways. There are boundaries. Respect and trust must be earned.

Tips for Using Social Media

Here are a few ways to view and use social media:

  • Be transparent. Share the good and the bad.
  • Be yourself. People want to connect with real people, not with plastic packaged images.
  • Don’t breach the social contract by doing nothing but selling your wares.
  • Take interest in others and share valuable information, even if it doesn’t benefit you directly.
  • Listen. You can learn a lot.
  • Be patient. Let things grow organically.
  • Viral campaigns can and do work, but they are the exception to the rule. (In other words, only the masses have the power to deem something viral).

I look forward to meeting and tweeting and Facebooking with you about marketing and social media, or anything that we both find interesting.

P.S. As an update to the Trick or Tweet event, thanks to the Twitter community and an anonymous matching donor, we raised $200 each for Epic Change, Florida Borderline Personality Disorder Association, and e-Mail Our Military.

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Comments (40)

  1. Great point about the “magic pill” myth. I’ve been thinking a lot about the sales/marketing connection lately, and in some ways, social media marketing is to marketing as marketing is to sales. In other words, social media marketing doesn’t magically create brand or product awareness any more than awareness magically creates sales. They’re all steps in a process, but connecting them takes planning and strong execution. Social media is a piece of the puzzle and can be very useful, but you’ve got to integrate it thoughtfully with your entire marketing effort.

  2. Great post!

    Thank you so much for setting an example via Twitter to show that social media can mean great things to nonprofit organizations.

    The donation is wonderful. The connection with others is priceless.

  3. I love that you urge caution if to those who believe that they can monetize social media easily or quickly. We just had a social media 101 workshop in Wash DC area two nights ago and more than half of the attendees wanted to know how to make money (overnight piles of cash) from it. In fact, one lady said if she couldn’t make money from it, why bother? Oh, I’m sure you hear that a lot from folks from time to time, as do I. And I can understand, to some degree their concerns… especially if you are a small business and you have limited time and resources, I can see how they may want to be sure that every single moment they are focused on something that it will create revenue. That said, I think this is a short-sighted perspective but I guess you just can’t convince everyone, right?!?! But for those who do “get it,” social media is a great positioning tool allowing anyone who’s willing to give it a go the opportunity to reach out and connect with countless of others who otherwise would not have heard of them. I wish I had had this blog post to reference 2 nights ago; but no matter … we’re doing the workshop again in January 09 and I’ll be sure to refer folks to this because I think your explanation is practical and easy for social media 101 folks to follow. Thanks for the post.

  4. Thank you very much for the excellent article. It gets the point across. I often struggle when I try to explain the benefits of Social Media to my clients. This article will help.

  5. [...] Understanding and Aligning the Value of Social Media | FutureNow’s GrokDotCom / Marketing Optimization Blog Posted on November 7, 2008 by websuccessteam Understanding and Aligning the Value of Social Media | FutureNow’s GrokDotCom / Marketing Opti… [...]

  6. It always amazes me how people are looking for some magic potion. :)

  7. Very well said on the true concept of social media. Most people attribute it as a stepping stone to instant huge traffic. You’re right, it is not a magic pill for traffic building, but rather a good platform for interaction, networking, as well as marketing. It must be used intellectually to get incremental benefits.

  8. I think giving without expecting to get has very direct fruits. And this does benefit you directly. Goodwill is important!

    Thanks for another great article.

  9. [...] Margenau sent me this link to Bryan Eisenberg’s post on using social media in marketing.  You should check out this article if you either think (a) social media is the obvious path to [...]

  10. [...] Here’s an exerpt from his post, "Understanding and Aligning the Value of Social Media." [...]

  11. “Don’t breach the social contract by doing nothing but selling your wares.”
    Great advice! You can be very off-putting if the only time you contact your “friends” is to tell them about a big sale.

  12. [...] Understanding and Aligning the Value of Social Media – While social media should be a part of any forward-thinking and transparent company, I would urge caution if you believe that you can monetize it easily or quickly. It’s also not a magic pill for traffic building. Similar Posts The Ultimate Twitter Client [...]

  13. [...] the article by Eisenberg on Grokdotcom… or if you’re looking for just the [...]

  14. [...] wrote in Understanding and Aligning Social Media: “The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the [...]

  15. [...] wrote in Understanding and Aligning Social Media: “The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the [...]

  16. [...] Brian’s post: “The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the [...]

  17. [...] From Brian’s post: [...]

  18. [...] Brian’s post: “The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the [...]

  19. [...] his cue from issues raised at marketers Jeffrey and Brian Eisenberg’s blog GrokDotCom, who write that social [...]

  20. [...] Brian’s post: “The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the [...]

  21. [...] start’s out by referencing Brian Eisenberg post from FutureNow: “The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the [...]

  22. [...] Brian’s post: “The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the [...]

  23. [...] After contemplating on the use of a very popular social network for “my” new company and trying to find an ROI friendly and or a search friendly (I am the recruitment business…) and or a communication friendly angel, I found these two posts on the subject of the social media term. The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the traditional sense. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all the others I don’t have the word count to mention aren’t media; they are platforms for interaction and networking. All the traditional media — print, broadcast, search, and so on — provide platforms for delivery of ads near and around relevant content. Social media are platforms for interaction and relationships, not content and ads. (Understanding and Aligning the Value of Social Media) [...]

  24. [...] Brian’s post: “The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the [...]

  25. [...] Brian’s post: “The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the [...]

  26. “People are attracted to People.” That says it all! Thanks,

    Jeff

    http://www.truenature.com

  27. [...] for, because no sooner than my second week in the office I stumbled upon an interesting article by Bryan Eisenberg on Understanding and Aligning the value of Social Media that addressed my own misgivings: “The biggest problem I have with the term “social [...]

  28. [...] time I looked at Bryan Eisenberg’s definition of social media as “platforms for interaction and relationships”; which is a great way of understanding [...]

  29. [...] two-way (or multiple) conversations and interaction in the pursuit of building relationships. Bryan Eisenberg’s recent post on the subject sums it up [...]

  30. [...] two-way (or multiple) conversations and interaction in the pursuit of building relationships. Bryan Eisenberg’s recent post on the subject sums it up [...]

  31. [...] en lisant un post sur le blog de Jeffrey & Brian Eisenberg que je me suis dis que je n’étais pas le seul à me demander si le marketing « traditionnel » [...]

  32. I’m staggered by the rapid succession of twitter! It’s everywhere nowdays.

  33. [...] is it? Why is it important to obtain the skills now while we are learning about our profession? Bryan Eisenberg, who is the co-founder of FutureNow, which according to their web site, is a “provider of the [...]

  34. [...] Conversely, “Social Media” is a set of tools for people to communicate between themselves, platforms for interaction and relationships, not content and ads. [...]

  35. My experience with social media indicates that it simply doesnt work to generate sales. Search engine marketing and optimization is much more efficient.

  36. [...] citare Brian Eisemberg The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the [...]

  37. I have just started a social media strategy and your article has help to convince me it’s worth the effort. My main aim is to build on the relationship with our users. Thanks

  38. [...] [...]

  39. [...] Here’s an exerpt from his post, "Understanding and Aligning the Value of Social Media." [...]

  40. People look for magic because they think it can happen over a night. They don’t understand how much time it takes.

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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