AdAge ran an article yesterday that reminded me of perspectives. Perspectives have been on my mind as we continue to help businesses and institutions of all types more directly communicate with their key audiences – from customers, patients and prospects to partners, VCs, media and more. Perspectives have also been on my mind as many social media fans questioned the value of attending the recent South by South West (SxSW) festival in Austin – many folks said it’s the “must attend” show for anyone in social media. Others claim the festival has gone by the wayside and many debated whether or not it was worth attending at all.
Well, I guess that depends on your perspective.
For example, the AdAge article was about Justin Bieber. I don’t know who Justin Bieber is – but thanks to Simon Dumenco, I know now that he’s a Twitter and marketing machine, and quite possibly “the biggest legit pop star ever created by YouTube.” Now, none of this really matters to me (other than my interest in the marketing impact and approach) because I don’t have, as Simon puts it, a “young teen or tween.” My perspective is, “Justin who?” because I have no connection to this phenom and thus, while impressed with his impact, don’t really have a reason to care.
Likewise, people not in the business of social media or marketing don’t really care that the social media crowd gathers in Austin for a week, while a social media manager would “just die” if she weren’t at the “see and be seen” event. Someone ready to retire doesn’t think much about the job market, an ice skater likely doesn’t much care about the NCAA championships, and a fashion maven would do anything to get into New York Fashion Week, while her neighbor Bob, who owns a bait and tackle store, doesn’t even know that entire weeks are dedicated to watching skinny models walk down elaborate runways in outrageous clothing.
The point is, perspectives matter – especially in marketing. It’s the marketer’s job to get out of their own heads and into that of the audience they’re trying to influence. Do you know what your potential customer’s perspective is? You know what you think it is, but do you really know? Have you asked? Do you include a feedback mechanism in your marketing in order to keep rapidly changing perspectives in mind as you devise your strategy?
Traditionally, marketers gathered such information through the likes of surveys, polls, or focus groups –often conducted via email, phone or formal gatherings. While these methods can still be fruitful, it’s often challenging to get a good response rate and can be a great undertaking of both time and expense.
Many companies often ask what the value is in dedicating time spent on social media sites as part of their marketing or PR efforts. If they can’t correlate a direct sale, it can be difficult to convince the C-suite of the value. However, marketers need to think of social networks not as a direct sales pipeline but more as an ongoing, live and constantly evolving focus group. Understanding your customers and prospects has always been a core focus in marketing, and social media allows you to gather such perspectives on a daily basis.
If you know how to navigate the networks, a good marketer can use social media for ongoing research – gathering oodles of useful data just by watching the conversations (note; understanding how to find the right conversations is key). When you can gather information about what your constituents are thinking, what they care about, where they see the “next hot thing,” etc., you can better understand their perspectives.
A better marketer understands how to participate in the networks to direct conversations toward useful topics – in order to get perspectives on the things that matter to your business.
A great marketer knows how to integrate an audience’s perspectives into social marketing campaigns. When customers feel that you understand them, they’re more likely to listen. When they see you participating in conversation with them – not just talking at them, but with them – they’re more likely to connect with and trust you (or your brand). When they feel an emotional connection to your brand – something easier to create when you understand perspectives – they’re more likely to become brand champions.
So listen up – and integrate social media into your marketing efforts to, at the very least, get your pulse on the perspectives that matter to your business.