Social Media is Not Advertising. Duh!

You know about the carpenter who only had a hammer, so every problem looked like a nail? That’s what I think about advertising on social media: It’s a useful tool, but it’s not suited to the problem.

My First Haul Video

So what is the problem? Just like many of my former bosses, who said there are no problems, just opportunities, the problem social media poses for brands is a failure to understand the opportunity the medium offers.

The hammer/nail paradigm is evident in advertisers’ great relief and joy in Pinterest. To them, it looks like lots of folks will advertise for them! Wow! Real people posting pictures of my products! How great is that?

Well, yeah, that might be great, but it misses at least part of the point.

And the point is: Social media is about relationships. What it offers brands is the abilty to create relationships and thereby, as Seth Godin puts it in the title of his book, Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers.

Social media adds an intermediate step in the stranger to customer journey: evangelist.

We wrote about evangelists in a series of posts beginning with Understanding Social Media Evangelists. In short, these are your crazy fans: those extremely enthusiastic supporters who tell everyone they know about your product.

What could be better than identifying, nurturing, and enabling an army of evangelists for your brand? In the offline world, many brands call these folks brand ambassadors and put together programs to hire celebs, near-celebs, and regular people to represent the brand in ads and at events. At the high end we have Alicia Keys as BlackBerry’s Creative Director and Justin Timberlake as creative director of Bud Light Platinum.

At the low end we have booth babes and other event shills. Here’s a job search for brand ambassadors in Minnesota:

If you peruse these positions, you’ll see that the duties of the hired gun brand ambassador are to:

  • Engage consumers to generate awareness and excitement for various brands
  • Create a memorable consumer experience
  • Provide support to the event team
  • Distribute samples
  • Ensure event attendees have a memorable experience
  • Work independently to meet sales objectives

There are so many consumer brands with ambassador programs, I have to assume they work. But the idea of paying some schmo off the street to distribute samples and “generate awareness and excitement” isn’t quite the same as having someone you know get in their friends’ faces about how great your product is.

And speaking of love, check out how many Pinterest pages show up when you Google “I absolutely love product”: (91 million at last count).

Hmmm. Pinterest might be useful after all – as a place to find evangelists . . .

Also check out all the young women evangelists strutting your stuff in YouTube Haul Videos:

Ambassador or Evangelist?

We hate the term ambassador, which calls to mind a stuffy career diplomat who participates in an endless round of protocol-bound encounters over cocktails.

We prefer brand evangelist because, as John Stuart Mill said, One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who only have interest. Replace that person with a belief with a person with a passion and you’ve got a brand evangelist.

So rather than thinking of social media as another channel for your hammer to pound messages into minds, think of it as a tremendous opportunity to pierce the tissue of demographics, personas, and other crude generalizations that hide your customers from you, and actually build relationships with your customers and prospects.

How? Well that’s a story for the next post.

Next up: It’s the End of Segmentation As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

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What Others Are Saying

Infinite Pipeline offers practical advice for using social media to extend relationship selling online. It’s a great way to get crazy-busy prospects to pay attention.”
—Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies

“Sales is all about relationships and trust. Infinite Pipeline is the ‘how to’ guide for maximizing social networks to find and build relationships, and generate trust in our digital age.”
—Sam Richter, best-selling author, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling (2012 Sales book of the year)

Infinite Pipeline will be the authority on building lasting relationships through online social that result in bottom line business.”
—Lori Ruff, The LinkedIn Diva, Speaker/Author and CEO of Integrated Alliances