Directly on the heels of the Knowledge Networks report on social media marketing, which indicates the value of social media for marketing purposes is marginal at best, comes this…
Keynoting at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Social Media Conference earlier this week, Forrester Senior Analyst and co-author of the book Groundswell, Josh Bernoff, discussed how “major marketers such as Procter & Gamble are using social media in increasingly potent ways. With the social-community effort detailed in this video, P&G significantly increased sales of its feminine-care products.”
P&G created Being Girl, a site targeted to 13 year old girls, which does not talk about feminine hygiene products per se, but the problems of being, well, a 13 year old girl. That’s not to suggest you don’t get plenty of advertising intermingled throughout, just that the site is not about advertising Tampons. It takes an indirect approach. The advertising fits the context.
Back to Knowledge Networks report for a moment.
Mediapost reporter Joe Mandese indicates that, in the opinion of KN, “[F]or all the media industry’s hype and buzz surrounding social networks, microblogs, and other social networking platforms, the genre has failed to become much of a marketing medium, and in the opinion of the Knowledge Networks’ analysts, likely never will.”
That comes as quite an indictment, especially to those of us who make our living promoting its benefits. They do concede one point, that social media marketing is “a way to reach passionate voices who may influence perceptions of your brand.” (I’ve always felt that social media was about tapping into the chain of influence. Influencers influencing other influencers and so on.)
So, who’s right, Knowledge Networks or P&G? Both actually. It’s not unlike the five blind men and the elephant. You know the story. One man touches the elephant’s tail and says the animal is like a rope. Another the flank and says it’s like a wall, etc. The truth is, they are both right…from their perspective.
The missing piece in this argument has to do with the value of “context.”
Certainly, social media advertising, when introduced to sites like Facebook, has not demonstrated satisfactory ROI. That’s what I refer to as (using a restaurant analogy) “getting a seat at someone else’s table.” They may welcome you and they may not. I agree with the report’s findings that people are not “explicitly turning to it for marketing purposes.”
What P&G has done via Being Girl, on the other hand, is set a table of their own and invited their target market to join. They have responded and the results are very positive. Context, see.
I think the salient difference is “advertising” versus “participation.” To once again quote the mantra of the Cluetrain Manifesto, “Markets are conversations.” If that’s the case, then “participation is marketing.” Participation, not advertising. Sharing pertinent information. Not advertising.
My hope is that the report missed the point altogether. For example, it trumpets the value of word of mouth. “What we’re seeing is that word-of-mouth is still the No. 1 most influential source,” it says. What does social media hyper-facilitate but word of mouth? It puts WOM on steroids!
It’s not just that marketers use social media. The real value is that other people do as well. The potency of their recommendations has increased exponentially thanks to social media.
I do not want this report to dissuade marketers and small business people from giving social media a try. P&G’s Being Girl is one great example that speaks to its benefits. There are many others. Again, it’s all about context.
The fifth “P” of marketing is “participation.” Get involved with others who are passionate about your brand and maybe even set a table of your own. I believe this: If social media can be used to sell Tampons, friend, it can be used to sell anything!