Beyond Marketing: The value of social media

Social Media BandwagonAt dinner with a group of colleagues the topic of social media came up. Particularly with regard to Twitter, the overwhelming consensus (that is everyone at the table but me) was that people didn’t see the point. While there are always laggards, I was not expecting this table to be among that group.

Of course, it should also come as no surprise that I began making the case for social media. I was abruptly cut off and told, “well it’s different because you’re in marketing.” As if to say Twitter was just a bunch of celebrities and marketers hanging out talking to each other. Sadly, the point caught me off guard and I really had to stop and consider that statement. Fortunately my quick wit caught up with me after dinner as I made my way back to my hotel room ready for response. Since dinner’s over – you all get to hear my thoughts here on this blog.

No – Twitter is not just for marketers or celebrities. And no, Twitter is not just to let people know you’ve just used the bathroom at your cousin’s girlfriend’s house with the door wide open, or other acts equally mundane. Twitter, or more broadly speaking, social media is…

1) A tool for collaborative communication and problem resolution. This should be a no brainer. Got a problem? Ask your tweeps. Got an idea to brainstorm, blog it and see what comes back. There is a ton of expertise out there, and the content is by and large free. I think by now most readers get this, but @comcastcares is a great example of real-time problem resolution made possible through real-time communication like Twitter.

2) A customer insight machine. I know what you’re thinking – this is supposed to be for non-marketers. If so, I call BS. Customer insight is everyone’s job – not just marketing, not just sales. If you are not listening to your customers, your competitors, your peers and industry luminaries – then something bad should happen to you. There’s no excuse to not be at least listening in to those conversations.

3) Entertainment. See @shitmydadsays or@thedayhascome. That’s I’ll say on that.

4) A community enabler. So yes, there’s a lot of marketers out there. But are we always marketing? No. In fact, I tweet to talk with and learn from other marketers. And it’s not just around industries or functions. In Milwaukee we had huge flooding last month. The damage was catastrophic in some places, and you know what medium broke the story to the most people first? Not TV, not radio, not the national weather service. It was Twitter. Just look up #brewcityflood or read this great blog from @TriveraGuy which tells the story far better than I could.

So I’ll say it again – Social Media is not just for Marketers. It’s not just for tracking celebs or giving your friends the blow by blow of your trip to the acupuncturist. Still don’t believe me? Then you leave me no choice but to quote the intellectual wizard that is @kaynewest who said “Fresh code is my dress code”. I can’t argue with that.


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