Five years ago, in a three floor walk-up above an Indian restaurant, the team at Buddy Media unveiled the first social media management system. I remember the board meeting like it was yesterday. For the first time, someone could create a Facebook page without using Facebook’s obscure, in-house programming language. This would be a huge time saver for agencies and advertisers.
Eventually the company added tools for publishing messages to the Facebook stream, as well as analytics and media buying. Then they tacked on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. To this day these are the core components of every social media management system.
As much as this sector has been a success, there are still two unanswered questions in my mind about social media marketing:
1.) Do people actually follow brands on Twitter?
2.) Who visits brand pages on Facebook?
I ask because I don’t.
If you do, can you please write in the comments below what corporate account you follow so I can check them out? Just curious.
In general, branded content gets low engagement within social media. I know this because a picture of a celebrity’s bowel movement just got more likes in my stream than a great brand campaign.
It is easy to point fingers and say the problem is bad content. With few exceptions (notably Red Bull, Old Spice, and Dos Equis) most brands are not good at social. Unfortunately the two areas that work in social – controversy and humor – are “off brand” for most advertisers.
But the real problem is that brands approach social with a broadcast mentality. Social media was never constructed to be a passive, one-to-many medium like TV. It is inherently an active, many-to-many medium.
Many-to-many communications are hard to engineer. Some companies pay people to share content into the stream. Other companies buy distribution from Facebook or Twitter via “sponsored posts”. In the long run neither approach is great. Humans have a pretty good bullshit meter, and if it isn’t authentic it won’t work in social.
For the past two years I have been working with a company that set out to create a system for native, many-to-many conversations in social. They are called PeopleLinx, and we finally funded them this March.
For an advertiser, the arithmetic of many-to-many marketing is simple. The average person has 200 first-degree connections across social media. That means a large company, with 10,000 employees, is less than three degrees removed from everyone on the planet. This is the power you can unlock by engaging employee networks on your behalf.
Every brand has content that employees should want to share – whether it is recognition and awards, new product releases, or a specific program that an employee worked on. This is the highest quality approach to social media marketing: an authentic message delivered among friends.
It is important to remember that companies are just a collection of people, who collectively possess a vastly broader reach than a marketing department. This idea has the potential to change marketing, and maybe in the process it can humanize companies too.