Thursday, July 2, 2009

The value of one person

Everyone is thinking about Social Media. They can't help it. Social Media is all over the news, preached about at every conference, added to every pitch - it's everywhere. With so much discussion going on within these organization there is very little doing. Roadblocks are everywhere in traditional organizations that keep Social Media as a fringe strategy and not an integrated communications effort. The list is long: budgets, understanding the technology, resources, content, etc. However, there is one big roadblock which will always get in the way, regardless of how you address the other insecurities in the organizations: how we view the consumer.

Acknowledge the value of one person
For any new media, you will not be successful if you make it a numbers game. These strategies do not work with a 'tell the masses' mentality. Beyond the fact that the masses cannot be found in one particular social category or new media, the nature of the media allows us to communicate more individually (which is good, not evil). In fact it is most effective when the communication is more individually focused. This is lost within most organizations who are looking at adding Social Media to their strategy. Those in charge of budgets and marketing decisions have spent the last thirty years trying to find the media that hits the most people at once. Costs are CPM. Reach is so big it's broken down into single number representations. However, the message that went with these communications was broad - a one size fits all shotgun blast. If the people who are in charge of marketing decisions do not value that one person who could be the next customer/fan/evangelist it wouldn't matter if you had Godin, Brogan, Joel or McConnell selling the strategy -the Social Media recommendation will die.

I'm not sure how you can value the masses and not value one person's opinion but that is the case for most companies. For these organizations the opinion of the masses is marketing, the opinion of one person is either a public relations issue or a retention issue. Usually in these organizations you'll find job/position silos (retention, marketing, customer service, PR) that continue to reinforce the value of the mass market over the meaningful market. By fragmenting the consumer experience into job descriptions, there is the possibility for a more individual message - however, the result is usually a mediocre delivery on the consumer promise. Acknowledging the value of one person is a cultural change that requires the same people who have been chasing the masses to focus on the micro level of consumer engagement. A focus on experience delivery over reach.