social is a marketing tool, not a strategy

I often make the analogy that social media marketing is like building your house on land that you don’t own. To be certain, social media marketing is an essential element in today’s marketing plans, but to put all the marketing eggs in that basket is crazy. You have no way of knowing how the social platforms will change and how those changes will affect your strategy. Two things have popped up lately that have reinforced this point to me both as a user and as a marketer.

A few weeks ago, I was in Nashville at a speaking engagement and was shocked to discover that I could no longer check-in on Foursquare. They have split the app and now are forcing me to download a second app called Swarm to check-in.

I could easily go on for paragraphs on why this is a stupid idea (check the dreadful iTunes reviews for Swarm to get an idea of the backlash). But the main reason it affects me is that I don’t use Foursquare “to easily see who’s out nearby and who wants to hang out later” as Swarm promises to do. I used Foursquare as a diary / travel log, restaurant discovery tool, and coupons. (free chips/salsa at Chili’s!)

Unless Foursquare reverts to something similar to what it was before, I will abandon Foursquare much like Peter Shankman did.

Life devastating occurrence? Of course not. As the hipsters like to say, it’s certainly a first-world problem. But all my check-ins are there. If I stop using Foursquare, they’re gone. My personal history wiped because a few people I don’t know changed an app. And the potential for destruction lies in wait elsewhere such as my personal travelogue currently presented as TripAdvisor reviews, all my tweets, etc.

The Foursquare debacle is from an (angry) user standpoint. Marketers using social media have much more at stake with adjustments and changes to the platforms. This Facebook post from a blogger I follow shows the foolishness of how the social platforms are killing their golden goose.

don't trust facebook

And I agree with Matt. Good content always wins, but you need to gain control of your list. If your marketing strategy is just to get more Facebook fans or more Twitter followers, or whatever, then you are ensuring your eventual failure when you no longer have access to those consumers you worked (and maybe paid) to get.

Your goal (every marketer’s goal) SHOULD be to gain more audience who is dedicated to consuming your relevant content. Use social media as a tool to deliver that content, but own your list.

Always remember, especially with social media, that if something is “free”, then YOU are the product that is being sold.

the part of marketing that marketing people forget

Starbucks hopped on the Foursquare marketing train early and came out with a great promotion. But Starbucks’ bold move flopped.

Why did they fail? The answer is simple. They forgot (or failed) to communicate their marketing plan with a very important group in the marketing experience — their employees. (It’s the same reason I get stiffed on free syrups when I use my Starbucks card.)

You can spend gobs of money, time, and attention on marketing to get people in the door — but the promises you’ve made with your marketing have to happen when those people come through the door.

Most of your brand is NOT built through advertising, PR, or any marketing message. The brand is mostly built through mundane daily customer experiences. It’s not sexy, but it’s true.

And the customer experience is almost totally controlled by the operational side of the business. If the marketers need/want to build a brand, they need to share their vision and brand strategy with the parts of the company who actually interact with customers.

This is true all the way from the master overall marketing strategy down to individual marketing initiatives. It’s important on all levels, but it becomes even more important when you’re using new and emerging marketing platforms like Foursquare or other forms of digital media. Innovators and Early Adopters are important groups. You want to make sure that employees are delivering superior customer experiences to people who will heavily influence WOM.

For example — The other day, a local sandwich shop tweeted that I could get 10% off if I mentioned Twitter when I ordered. I went there for lunch and mentioned it to the cashier who didn’t even know what Twitter was.

It comes down to the fact if you’re delivering messages to potential markets, you need to share the content of those messages with ALL the people in your organization. They are the ones who will make it work.