Or not merely keeping up. The ever changing ebb and flow of human history, sociology, and even biology are all taking us to what is next. Keeping up is what organisms do when they are thriving. I read somewhere that to keep from dying, all cells evolve. So do we, and so - hopefully - does the set of actions and responses we categorize as marketing communications.
A couple of days ago, we held a panel discussion at Drexel University about Breaking Boundaries: The Revolution of Social Media. Breaking boundaries means we're integrating connections, communications, conversations, and community into our thinking and doing.
Many worry that this new marketing thing caught them off guard. I remember how nine years or so ago professionals were telling me I was wasting my time with the whole listserv thing and social networks. Maybe they wanted me to fall in line - follow the recipe, this is what we're supposed to do.
I bet when the phone was invented, or anything else, people were resistant - "I'm not going to have the time to speak to my neighbors anymore." Now we often call them on the phone. Things do change, and we adapt. I'm glad I followed my instincts.
From the very first moment this unstructured and messy thing called social network was on my radar, I was hooked to the sheer power of the possibilities inherent in it. If these tools allow us to forge connections and have conversations, why do we think we have no time for that?
Why do we think we need to make a special time for it? Isn't networking and building relationships part of the evolution of business already? I think first we need to understand where we came from and where we're headed.
The Internet changed everything
Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web to reframe the way we use information and work together. 20 years later, for his next project, he's building a web for open, linked data that could do for numbers what the Web did for words, pictures, video: unlock our data and reframe the way we use it together.
[TED talk 16:23']
Data is relationships. Stephen Baker documented how The Numerati see workers, shoppers, voters, bloggers, patients and lovers. The sentiment is good, however the concerns over privacy and personal data remain.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) goes social
Brent Leary has been writing about Social CRM over at his blog. If you read a couple of his posts, you will find that we're still a bit far from the whole realization or pay off in terms of CRM and social. Data mining is hard enough - imagine dealing with live data that moves around.
In case you're not familiar with the term, customer relationship management (CRM) consists of the processes a company uses to track and organize its contacts with its current and prospective customers.
It is - or should be - a combination of policies, processes, and strategies implemented by an organization to unify its customer interactions and provide a means to track customer information.
Is there always a unified customer experience at the end of that process? What about humanity, unscripted opinions? It seems to me that the most valuable entry field is becoming the comments section - in systems and in media.
Another important component of data is analytics. Every marketing activity has to drive outcomes. If you desire an outcome, you can measure it. That is valid for branding campaigns, digital marketing, and social media. Think about:
- greater site loyalty with return visits
- higher percent of sharing and recommending
- increased sales (why would that not be one of your goals?)
For this kind of in depth understanding of what to look for online, I recommend Avinash Kaushik and his site and book. The first step in being able to leverage the information is understanding what to listen and look for and why.
ROI - are we there yet?
This is not new, of course. Many investments have been made by companies in the past that have not paid off because of a slight misunderstanding or mis-alignment over goals.
Our panel conversation centered on public relations, a discipline that in the past has been challenged to come up with metrics other than clippings.
If you've ever wondered how to measure social media, public relations, public affairs, media relations, internal communications or blogs add KDPaine's blog to your reading list.
Wikipedia's entry on public relations defines it as - a set of functions that foster an organization's ability to strategically listen to, appreciate, and respond to those persons whose mutually beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to achieve its missions and values.
The focus is on two-way communication and fostering mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics. It does sound like it would be compatible with the social in media, doesn't it?
The Web is a marketplace - not a medium, not a channel, not another TV, not a radio with images. I once explained this to a friend at dinner. Imagine you're going back to the Bazaars of old, where people displayed their wares and met each other in conversation, negotiation, community, and transactions.
How do you figure out who you connect with on the Web? How do you figure out how to measure it and how to track it? How do you manage those connections, how do you keep them active and engaged?
Start with what
What are you trying to accomplish? Please tell me it's not more stickiness for your Web site. That's a nice outcome, but the objective should be a bit more ambitious. In PR, marketing communications, and marketing in general, the objective is not to measure the number of clicks. It's to determine and track and measure what you want to happen from those clicks.
It's the change in behavior and the direct communication and conversation between marketer, the content creator, and customer, who - make no mistake - is in control. It's not your message, it's what they want to do.
Don't just keep up, then. Jump in with both feet. Learn what this whole marketplace for people and ideas is about, and integrate what you've learned with what you thought you knew (yes, you will need to challenge yourself a little or a lot, too).