Social Media’s Greater Value

A week ago, Matt Haughey wrote about How Social Media Really Works; I personally found the post to leave an opportunity unused, so this is my attempt at complementing it.

Matt concludes his post with:

So maybe instead of getting your company on twitter, paying marketers to mention you are on twitter, and paying people to blog about your company, forget all that and just make awesome stuff that gets people excited about your products, hire people that represent the company well, and when your stuff is so awesome that friends share it with other friends, you may not even need “social media marketing” after all.

Here’s where I feel Matt’s entry is incomplete: it is absolutely true that making awesome products and letting Social Media users (bloggers et al) get excited about your products is much better than trying to do marketing on social network sites like Twitter, but it is a very passive stance towards Social Media.

Matt’s presented causality flow is something like this:

Make great products -> people get excited about them -> people blog about them -> other people read those posts -> other people end up excitedly buying your products, too

Perfectly rational and accurate, but in this model the company basically sits on the sidelines after the initial “Make great products” step. I can’t imagine many companies to be satisfied leaving it at that. I know Iwouldn’t if I ran a company making great products. I’m not even happy to leave it at that simply working ata company making great products.

Social Media is providing companies (and individuals!) with the opportunity to add value to products in many different ways, or more specifically, in many ways that were never-before possible or available. Now, instead of making a product, running some marketing for it and ensuring good customer support, there’s a cavalcade of social networks upon which you can extend your brand identity, your support channels, your marketing potential, your customer participation and involvement rate, everything.

What Social Media really is, is a huge communication channel straight from you to your customers. And it is an all-purpose communication channel, so don’t limit it to marketing messages from you to them. Instead, consider some of these additional venues:

  • Use Twitter to offer direct customer support by searching for your products’ names to see if anyone is having trouble with a product. Twitter has become a collective support channel for pretty much every product in the world, all you need to do is look for the ones using yours;
  • If your product involves a hobby or a passion of sorts, have a presence on the related social networks, e.g. if you make products related to photography, be on Flickr and showcase how your product might be of value to people through real-world usage, not highly polished marketing ideas*;
  • Use social networks to pay attention to how customers feel about your products and, where possible, get them involved in the discussions over ways to improve them. Interacting with your customers directly through more than just your support or troubleshooting channel is of tremendous value;
  • Stimulate your customers through interact with each other — if they can be creative with your product(s) and possibly others, helping them come together to do so may create an entire subclass of customers that will evangelize your product simply through their creativity.

These are just four examples out of many possible ways you can extend your brand, your company’s presence and your customer satisfaction by leveraging Social Media. The key is to take an active role in participating and using social networks for more than just additional marketing platforms. There is great value in Social Media, but it’s not advertising.

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