For marketers, the online social world presents quite the conundrum—how do marketers utilize such a buzzin’ space without being perceived as obtrusive? Because now more than ever, it’s all about the user's time, not the marketer’s. Now more than ever, marketers aren’t the ones calling all the shots; people are voicing what they want and need, and companies are rushing to provide.
Such was the discussion at last night’s fabulous MITX event, Social Media: the Opportunities and Implications for Marketers, which was held at the Parris Lounge. Larry Weber, social media guru and chairman of the W2 group, moderated a panel comprised of some heavy-hitters from the social media space: Tom Arrix from Facebook, Suzanne Skop from MySpace, and Juan Fernando Santos from Studiocom. In addition, Jeff Taylor, Founder and CEO of newcomer Eons weighed in from a start-up’s perspective (and he absolutely blew my socks off btw), and Pauline Ores from IBM spoke on behalf of a 100-year-old business adapting to this new digital space.
A few key points from the panel discussion:
- Now more than ever, customers are vocalizing what they want and it’s up to companies to get it.
- Jeff from EONs described how community members are meeting on the site, and then a week later meeting in person. To me, that’s what social media is all about.
- People who are on social networks want to be heard. And they don’t necessarily want to be rewarded monetarily for voicing their opinions. Rather, they want access. They want the inside scoop.
- Social networks can easily double as focus groups—which are (or were) quite costly to organize.
- For traditional media to catch up, it needs to run its content in a lot of different places. It needs to be widely accessible and, in my opinion, free.
But what about marketing? Where do advertisers fit in? Well, you see, no one really knows. Someone mentioned an influencer-type of scene, where people tell their friends/virtual community about their favorite products. But if the company is pushing that, it sounds a lot like a payless pyramid scheme… or the failed Facebook Beacon.
Which brings me to my final takeaway: insiders from the leading social media sites really have no idea how to market to their users! And I don’t say this as an insult to any of the panelists, but rather as an exclamation of excitement. We’ve got all this great data, unbelievable segmentation possibilities, and HUNGRY Internet/mobile users who simply can’t get enough of the virtual world. So much opportunity, and so many kinks to be worked out. As Larry Weber put it last night, right now in the social media space, it’s a matter of maturation. We’re encountering, as he put it, “first generation hiccups.” Example: Coke friending his daughter on Facebook. Yeah, that’s pretty freaking lame.
So don’t let the heavy-hitters fool you; they do not have the golden equation that will magically make their users interested in marketing. We’re all mixing potions--or, in our lives, scribbling away at the whiteboard--together. And what fun it is!