Headed in to “weigh out” at the end of the XSport Fitness Challenge. Do I look skinny?.
When describing the difference between social media marketing and traditional techniques, experts will often focus on the interactive nature that the former offers. With social media, consumers can promote a brand by discussing it and by posting on a product page. Businesses and consumers can communicate back and forth as peers, even within the confines of the marketing process. In short, the one-way street of old has been replaced by a two-way thoroughfare – a broad connection between business and user that is strengthened by the traffic flowing in both directions.
Social media marketers understand this concept well. However, few know how to successfully implement it into a marketing model. A business may post something to Facebook or Twitter and ask for user comments, but this approach only forces two-way traffic. It doesn’t encourage it organically.
This distinction is an important one, as the main benefits of interactive social media marketing – an increase in exposure, consumer loyalty, and perceived credibility, among others – are best achieved when the consumer participates on his own initiative. This goes beyond simply answering questions. Rather, it requires a business (and a marketer) to approach social media with a far more comprehensive outlook.
Perhaps the best way to do this is by selling a community instead of selling a brand. Consumers are savvy enough to realize that your Facebook page is ultimately intended to boost exposure, sales, and profits, but they don’t want to see such capitalism blatantly forced upon them. They instead want to be won over in the same way as they would with any other Facebook group – with an appeal to community. Similarly, people follow a Twitter feed because they find it entertaining or because they seek insights into details of a person’s life. A marketer is best served to tackle these two objectives before explicitly promoting the brand. This insures that the two-way street is as vibrant as possible.
So how can community be promoted ahead of a brand? If you’re a marketer, think of yourself as a tourism agency. You’re trying to sell a given city or region, but instead of commoditizing the place you want to present it as an experience. You might connect the consumer to other people who have shared this experience, for example, or you may simply provide news on developments in the region. All the while you can still convey a sense of branding in every photograph or promotion. However, when offering travel promotions such as local credit cards with low rates or the best travel credit card, don’t forget that “community” always comes first.
This “travel bureau” mindset can then be expanded to other marketing ventures. While the way you create a social media community will certainly vary based on your industry and on your business, keeping the concept in mind is a worthwhile place to start. Ultimately, as marketers, we don’t want to merely widen the road of communication and add a second lane where one once stood. Instead we should do away with the old infrastructure and remake the system organically, so that communication can foster and two-way traffic can grow.