The industry I work most closely with, pharmaceuticals, is being forced to question its sales model. Over the years, pharma focused on “reach & frequency” – more sales reps repeating the brand message more times to more doctors. This led to an arms race among pharma companies, fielding ever-larger sales forces, and also created a backlash in the marketplace. A growing number of institutions and doctors won’t even see drug reps anymore.
R&F – Reach and Frequency – does work up to a point. In fact, huge swaths of traditional marketing approaches have relied on this method. And that is why, once social media appeared more prominently on the radar screen, a growing number of marketers (and spammers) have jumped on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other channels as means to pump out one-way messages to a growing audience.
Some well-known folks on Twitter – such as Guy Kawasaki – openly embrace this model, using social tools to reach an ever-larger audience with frequent messages (although in Guy’s case, he does actually interact with people on-line).
Those of us who are active in social networking tend to decry this development – the commercialization of what started off as a peer-to-peer approach to communications – but the fact is, we’re not going to be able to stop it entirely. Brands will promote. Celebrities will blab. Spammers will annoy.
Instead, let’s concentrate on not getting sucked into the R&F model. Yes, it is potentially a good thing to have a large number of followers/readers/connections on social platforms, but there’s a mentality to avoid – a mentality that sees people as means to an end. That’s the traditional marketing and selling model, and whether your goal is to extract dollars from wallets or collect names as followers, it’s all the same – people as objects to be manipulated.
I hope that people won’t be turned off to social networking because it has devolved into another reach & frequency method of self-promotion and manipulation. It’s easy to see through that, and, like many healthcare professionals, simply shut the door. Let’s continue to encourage people to enjoy peer-to-peer networking, and patiently instruct newcomers (individuals and businesses) about Authenticity-Based Communications (the A-B C’s of social media).
The first enthusiastic flush of social media newness and idealism is rapidly passing by. It’s time to settle in for the long haul. I’m in – are you?