A business school sage once advised me, or more properly a roomful of Type-A hyper-achievers with one foot out the door, to seek balance in our lives. “Measure your successes by what you sacrifice to achieve them,” he said. It was good advice then, and it’s stuck with me.
I was reminded of this as The Bachelor (that’s right, I watch it) barrels toward another tear-jerking finale. As my personal favorite Jillian lamented in her departing limo, “You have to take a chance, to put yourself out there, to have a shot at something great.”
You go, girl. <sniff>
So it is with social media.
There’s a lot of value to be had by embracing this new medium, or at a minimum the potential for a lot of value. Much of that value derives from the dialog it enables between users and brands. That dialogue creates the potential for intimacy, in a way no broadcast medium can.
But there is a price to be paid for this intimacy, as Jillian well knows. You have to take a risk. You have to put yourself out there, and be willing to get hurt. You have to give up some control.
Marketing is about managing perception.
At some level marketing has always been about changing what large numbers of anonymous people think, feel, or do. In the culture of marketing, the ability to persuade has been the coin of the realm. We have been rewarded not to lie, really, but to manage perception in ways that serve our interests. Sometimes that’s meant limiting access to certain inconvenient truths about products, quality, service levels, competition, etc. Often it’s meant efforts to add perceived value by associating ordinary products with extraordinary advertising. Always it’s meant leveraging the bullhorn of mass media to promote our singular worldview.
Now along comes social media, with the promise of lower cost, higher impact communication. But while the benefits are unproven, the intangible costs are very concrete to marketers not exactly comfortable engaging the unwashed masses on an equal footing. This concern expresses itself in countless ways, here are just a few I’ve heard recently:
- “Oh, if we open this up to customers, they’re just going to complain.”
- “I’m sure we have some fans, I’m just not sure how many.”
- “Our lawyers would never let us say that.”
- “Well we can’t just let anyone say whatever they want. Can we?”
- “But what if our competitors see this?”
Giving up control creates risks with which marketing people are neither familiar or comfortable. How do you get past them?
Social media marketing manages perception by revealing and responding to it.
First off, I don’t subscribe to some Utopian worldview that social media marketing isn’t marketing at all. The game is still to manage perception, folks, though with fewer degrees of freedom from the objective truth.
But is that such a bad thing? Is that really what we fear? Is THAT what’s holding us back?
The funny thing about objective truth is that it is what it is. And if you think about it, so much of the pain and hardship in business and in life is caused by distance from the objective truth – of ourselves, our relationships, our situations and our businesses.
If getting closer to that is the price of participation in social media, well that that’s really no price at all.
So buck up, Jillian. The truth is he’s going to marry the cheerleader or the ice queen, it’s not going to work out, and you’re going to be the next Bachelorette.
Choke on that, Daddy.
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