Articles About Marketing And Twitter Are Almost Never Gold

The other week I analyzed the Business Week social media article.  It rubbed me the wrong way for several reasons, however John Sviokla who writes for Harvard Business Review left a comment that well-summarized my main motivation to dissect it:

I have to agree with Adam and Nik. Business Week has a journalistic obligation to go beyond simply making a story structure that has “issue” and then “counterfact”. The responsibility of the author is to make a fact-based assessment of the central tendency of social media in business. Given the fact that according to my estimates there is about $1 Trillion dollars spent in the US on generating demand through promotions, advertising, sales forces, and the like, and given the fact that word of mouth is such a vital force in customer choice — there is no question that social media is a part of the digital marketing mix that is here to stay.

I agree with Jeff too that there is a surfeit of bad reporting out there — it’s just too bad that a magazine with Business in its name is so naive about how good business should operate!

I feel that as a marketing industry blogger, something I can do in 2010 is continue to dissect how trade publications cover digital marketing.  Industry media by themselves have more influence than we do.  But in aggregate we win out.

As practitioners who are actually creating strategies we have a grasp not just from an analytical viewpoint, but from working hands-on with the web we have one foot firmly in reality.  Therefore, we can elevate the global conversation by making industry media and even other bloggers more cognizant and accountable for their content.  If we’re successful in doing so, we’ll advance things from both the micro and macro levels.

With the introduction out of the way, let’s move on and continue to dissect digital marketing content in industry media:

Brett Waters at Marketing Mag writes a piece “When all that Twitters isn’t gold.”  Of note, I could not locate the author on Twitter.  Let’s go through it:

Marketers are increasingly turning to social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in an attempt to promote their products or services.

By starting digital marketing articles writing about tools, you reinforce the wrong thing up front.  Want better digital strategy?  Ban these words (aka tools/tactics).

It’s analogous to writing a story on telemarketing communication strategy and leading with:  many companies are turning to VOIP, cell phones and services like Skype.  Then in the body discussing what to say on the phone.  It’s a total disconnect between lede and content.

Next, the author goes into an example of the “negatives” of social media the Internet:

What many fail to consider however, is that for every positive story there are also negatives. Just look at the highs and lows of some recent movie releases. Revenues for the Sacha Baron Cohen film, Bruno were significantly impacted by critical Twitter reviews posted by movie goers during the film’s opening weekend.

This isn’t a “negative of social media,” it is a reality of a connected society.  Consumers are going to have been sharing their opinions on the web for well over a decade.  Additionally, criticism on the web is channel agnostic and not silo’d to any one network if it achieves any degree of critical mass.

We can easily tell each other if a product sucks.  So if you make mediocre products – entertainment or otherwise – be certain those who are passionate about that type of product are going to speak out against it.  Not just in Twitter, as the author suggests, but across the web.  This shouldn’t be a revelation to any business at this point.

Next the author discusses how to combat negative buzz:

By analysing and understanding the different reasons why consumers take the action they do, it becomes possible to plan a social network communication strategy for individuals that considers tone and sentiment and then apply the appropriate action.

Consumers don’t want to see a “social network communication strategy” with a response that “considers tone and sentiment” – they want to see corrective action to whatever their point was.  Listening to how people say things is far less important than what they are actually telling you.

Companies can win through their actions, not through trying to spin the issue with a communications strategy.  You’re talking directly to other humans, applying traditional PR tenets designed for traditional media is wrong.  Any momentary victory through communication designed to appease is meaningless.  The resentment stirred up originally will last longer than any response through words:  if someone took the time to share their negative thoughts about your product in a public forum, it cut deep.  Don’t say you’re taking action, show what action was taken.  Demonstrate, don’t explain.

Decide where responsibility for social media should sit. Is it a marketing owned activity or would it be best run as a blog by a technical development guru?

Since when does a blog need to be run by a “technical development guru?”  Despite what anyone tells you – social communications tools are simple to use and a snap to setup.  That’s the reason why there are 133 million+ blogs indexed by Technorati.  If you’re unsure how to get something started, sure – have someone else come in and do the initial setup – but to have it run by a technical person day-to-day shows a lack of understanding and perpetuates something that is no longer true, if it ever was.  It’s not about technology, it’s about ideas.

When ready, create your group on Facebook or a site on Twitter and begin posting. Social media is largely about personality, so keep it interesting and let some character show.

Facebook and Twitter in particular seem to have an army of supporters in the marketing industry, as without fail they are mentioned as the de facto platforms usually without much rationale.  It’s as if cable TV was just invented and “experts” started saying:  “When ready, create your ad for Comedy Central or ESPN and begin running your shoots.”  This is skipping right to specific tactics without any logic in doing so.

Earlier in the piece, the author suggested your social media responsibility could be best run by your technology development guru.  Now he says to keep it interesting and let some character show?  These two things seem in opposition.

Your thoughts?