Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Is social media suited to marketing?

Are we heading for a social media implosion? Will businesses begin to question whether the social media emperor has indeed got any clothes on? History has an uncanny knack of repeating itself, and social media is beginning to show some of the hallmarks ….

Back in the 1990’s the internet created the dot-com bubble, which blind-sighted many otherwise rational business people. Now the social media revolution is changing the rules and vast numbers of business people are trying to figure out its potential. Social media specialists and experts are springing up everywhere (well, mostly on social media sites … ) with a zealot-like passion to teach other business people how to get more and more followers.

As marketing guru Philip Kotler points out “companies that focus inward become blind to seismic changes in markets, competition, distribution, media and technology that are occurring outside”. So the rapid growth of sites such as Twitter, FaceBook and others cannot be ignored, even though this particular change leaves us far from clear about how it fits into our marketing plans.

Yet there must be many who wonder whether we are not heading for another heady crash.
“Marketing is the business that identifies unfulfilled needs and wants, defines and measures their magnitude, determines which target markets the organisation can best serve ….. and calls upon everyone in the organization to ‘think and serve the customer’ ”. (Kotler)
In other words, marketing is about understanding what customers want. It’s not about the number of followers, or even the number of people who read your (or my) blog. He goes on to say:
“marketing is not the art of selling what you make. It is the art of identifying and understanding customer needs and creating solutions that deliver satisfaction …“

Going back to basics when all around you are making it complicated has many advantages. One wonders (out loud if you write a blog) whether the dot-com crash, the banking crisis, and many other fiascos would have happened if anyone had an eye on the basics.

Twitter, Facebook and blogging have all quickened the pace at which we can communicate by enabling us to “talk” to more people more of the time. Like the internet itself, and the printed page before it, social media found an unfulfilled need, and satisfied it with aplomb.

However, unless the many businesses that populate these sites can figure out how to tune in to their customers and listen to them, satisfying their own customers’ needs and wants well be as difficult as ever. They may well find their thousands of followers are worth about the same as tulip bulbs.

Perhaps then social media will revert to its origins – being social.

It is likely that social media will mature over time – satisfying both social and business needs. But it will take time, and a more sophisticated approach - and in the meantime the rush to find gold amongst a million “get rich quick” schemes might seem a little hasty. I also wonder why people who don’t even speak my language (or I don’t speak theirs) are following me. Life is full of mysteries.

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