Thursday, December 06, 2012

Follow us anyway you like

Social media agencies have a tendency to talk in terms of building audiences through adding 'followers' and gaining 'likes'.

Traditional outbound b-2-b marketing defines the audiences to target based on analysis of the job function and role and perhaps even the persona of people who are prospective customers or specifiers of the products or services offered. Audience categories are detailed by the publications' readership profiles. Publications  cultivate readership that meets the needs of a specialised sector through editorial content the readers want and providing a platform for advertisers to present their messages to this specific group. Advertising is sometimes referred to as 'interruptive', intruding into the space where selective audiences are consuming information. Awareness through advertising of the important vendors in their market is also valid to buyers and specifiers so they may view display advertising as informative rather than interruptive. But this cosy business model of publishers, editors, PR agencies and advertisers is out dated claim other voices. It is the search engines dominated by Google and AdWords that are the way forward. This business model is not only trackable but paid for only when clicked on. It is a different media channel, but depends nonetheless on matching places where advertising is displayed in response to visitor defined search terms. The advertisements are presented because through search selection the audience has effectively defined itself as people the advertiser would like to reach.

So how does this work for social media? Are the audiences acquired through accumulating 'likes' and 'followers' the same people that traditional marketers would identify? In short are they buyers or specifiers of b-2-b goods and services? How many b-2-b companies have done the research to find out if social media channels are the preferred route to receive information from potential vendors? Do any of their customers even go there and if they do are commercial messages in a social forum welcome?

If the information offered by a company Facebook page is of great value then maybe a traditional engineer or consultant might be motivated to click 'like'. Consider now the more likely content on Facebook or Twitter. Well we know Twitter is probably going to be headline news rather than an in-depth analysis because of the 140 character limitation and Facebook is unlikely to be any more informative. It seems that the content posted on social media sites is at best what is left once the interesting stuff is published as press releases and white papers or magazine articles. Most PR people will know how difficult it can be to coax news worthy stories out of the average b-2-b client in the first place. Consider next the target of 5 posts a day advocated by one social media specialist. What is the chance of generating 5 quality items, but then the aim seems to be less to inform and educate - more to amuse and generate a warm fuzzy feeling rather than prompt a call to action and engage in the buying process.

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