July 13th, 2012 by Tim Greenhalgh
I picked up a post by Shel Israel and have been wrestling for a week or so with the ideas that this respected commentator offered about the marketer assault on social media.
What he wrote was certainly a wake-up call but from where I was placed, did not mesh closely with recent experience. Shel wrote in â€˜Will Marketing Muck Up Social Media?â€™ that a radical change was taking place in social media â€“ and it threatened to destroy the fragile set of new relations between brand and consumer.
Part of his article is worth quoting in full:
â€œThere was once a Golden Age of social media, when people talked about the ability to find useful, interesting, valuable people to talk with all over the world. Businesses of all sizes discovered that there was great value in listening and engaging with customers and other relevant people. What had once been one-directional monologues became two-directional dialogs and most people saw that it was good.
â€œThen the marketers got their hands around the throat of social media strangling engagement and stuffing messages down its throat.â€
Clearly, Shel is pulling no punches here â€“ this is his recent experience. But the rapid changes he is seeing are not similar to those of the team here at Liberate Media. I wonder if this is a geographically specific â€“ North American â€“ regression. From where we sit, in the UK and Europe mainly, the evolution in social media brand engagement is moving in the opposite direction.
We are seeing brands of all sizes in the UK and Europe embracing the ideas that make social media a revolutionary â€˜platformâ€™ for new marketing strategies and methodologies.
Even 18 months ago, we at Liberate Media were faced often with clients who were extremely cautious about the social medium, and very fearful of the loss of marketing control.
This has changed and new clients are coming to us to ask how exactly we can help them to combine traditional PR with social media engagement â€“ and they accept the erosion of brand messaging control.
They accept that shouting into the social wind is not only useless but is damaging to the brand they wish to market successfully. They do accept that loss of control actually opens up a vast range of potential positive connections, through listening, sharing knowledge and having useful, relevant conversations.
Maybe weâ€™re just lucky to be in our current position but it would be very good to hear more from other practitioners about their recent experiences. If Shel is right that there is a regression to one-way messaging, push control, and other worrying marketing conservatism in North American companies, then we have to be very vigilant and prepare to resist the changes in other territories.
At the same time we can help to push back against this regression by showing how effective social media engagement can deliver positive results for every company and brand.
I wonder how the marketers in North America will measure success and ROI, if they are retreating to positions that, from my point of view, cannot deliver effective engagement and commercial results.
Shel makes a point about the return of the dreaded ROI in his article. An answer to that is that measurement can be anything but only precise, relevant focuses will have any practical value.
Drew McLellan echoes this point in his post â€˜Twitter and Facebook ROIâ€™ , worth a read as it nails the challenges of effective measurement.
By the way, Shel is on the Marketing Tech Blog Radio Show at 3 p.m. EST today (7pm BST) where he will talk about the new book he is researching with Robert Scoble, (working title â€œThe Age of Context: Why It Matters to Your Work & Life,â€) and much more, I hope.
You can follow Shel on Twitter @shelisrael
And on his blog http://blogs.forbes.com/shelisrael/