The Social Web and Marketing Inversion

As I’m sure you can tell by the my blog posts, lately I’ve been thinking about the social web an awful lot.   Part of it has to do with working at StockTwits but another part of it is that I see it as very disruptive and thus, interesting.

Social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter combined with mobile phones are allowing the global conversation that started with the internet to turn into something faster,  easier, and more ingrained in the day to day life.  Poeople are beginning to live their lives both on and offline  simultaneously and seamlessly.

Many companies see this as an enormous marketing oppurtunity, and it is, but now how they think.

For the last 50 years or so, going back to the days of Don Draper, marketing has been primarily focused outward – as a one way street from the company to the consumer.  In The Cluetrain Manifesto, they likened the modern day form of marketing to war where companies are in battle with their customers – constantly trying to force a huge supply of messages to a market with absolutely no demand for them.

On the internet however, this tactic doesn’t work.  On the internet, what works is not what the companies telling you that you should want, but you telling the companies what you do want.  Think about Google.  Search is the most successful type of advertising on the web.   This is because when someone performs a search, they are explicitly looking for something that they want.  Thus, the ads aren’t that intrusive.  In fact, they can be quite helpful.  Search ads are pretty much the only ads I click on online.

On the social web, this is no different.  There is very low tolerance for spam, and most traditional corporations have basically turned to spamming.  The other day I tweeted about the movie Halloween II, and the next thing I know I had two Halloween costume websites following me.  Bluntly put, like the traditional web, most companies don’t know what the fuck they’re doing on the social web.

This is because the future of marketing on the social web is not the outward form – from the company to the consumer.  Instead, it is the inward form – from the consumer to the company. In the past it was a marketing department trying to predict its customer’s tastes and preferences and craft a message accordingly.  On the social web the customer tells the company their tastes and preferences and the marketing departments role to relay it to the company.  In fact, you know that customer service department you outsourced to India – you may be need them again.

The social web provides a real time minable conversation for companies to peruse.  Today I saw the following two tweets from someone I follow, @christopherhuff:



At this point he is marketing himself to banks.  He’s telling banks, specifically Bank Of America, that he’s looking for service that he isn’t getting.  He is also marketing Bank of America to his followers, letting them know that BofA service blows.  If Bank of America was smart they would at least use this information to improve their customer service, if they were really smart they would have @replied him and gotten the information, apologized and then took care of it.  If they did that, I’d ReTweet them in a second – cuz that’s awesome.

The future of marketing on the social web is inward, towards the company.  I call this marketing inversion.

Companies should fire the marketing departments hired to craft images of some contrived reality, and instead hire people who can wade into the actual reality of the social web to help craft a better company.  This means monitoring what people are saying, and reaching out and talking to them in a human voice.   It also means simply listening, a very important characteristic to a good salesman.  Companies must simply sit back and listen to what people are saying about their products and service and then relay that message to the operating arms of the company so that they can improve.

In the past, it was companies sending out a ton of messages.  Now its the customer – and now there should be a huge demand for the message.  On the social web, customer service is the (new) marketing.


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