I was recently asked to speak at a business group about business to business internet marketing and “the new hot topic called social marketing.” There is enough discussion about different elements of social network marketing and about how all them are the next big thing.
What do I mean? How about these ones straight from the blogosphere:
All of these posts discuss the specific use of these different tools and the opportunities that exist for each, but few discuss the premise as to why these tools are gaining momentum as a marketing medium and why businesses should use social networking sites.
Most advocates seem to be just cheerleaders for their favorite social networking site and all expound on the great opportunities that could exist for active participants. They base their opinions on their experience using these sites when enthusiasm for them is high.
As their energy and enthusiasm wanes, will each of these sites still have the momentum to deliver as part of a real marketing strategy? For the cheerleader, it is an exciting way to explain the opportunity and show the potential, but the cheering may fail to deliver something tangible to the decision maker (who be looking to integrate these methodologies into their inbound marketing strategy).
Many decision makers feel that the fundamentals of why something works should be a greater part of the discussion than simply knowing “What’s hot.” As with any marketing opportunity, the fundamentals need to be strong.
Social Networking sites work because we value relationships. They work as business tools because we believe that relationships lower our risk as buyers. Business buyers are increasingly research-oriented and use social networking tools to learn more about a potential vendor, learn more about their offerings and validate them based on their network, level of activity and effort to communicate with those networks.
These buyers need to know more than just what you sell, they want to know who you are. By seeing who you are associated with, reading your comments, and seeing what others are saying about you and what you say, they can determine for themselves if you are the best possible choice for this particular business relationship. These tools can allow prospects to see if your are credible, knowledgeable and even if people like you. Social network users will search the web for this information, so it makes sense to give them honest information they can use.
By excluding yourself from the search you appear a higher risk – you become whatever is behind door number 3 and many people will not take that risk. After all, most vendors are chosen by their ability to lower risk, not by their ability to deliver the best possible solution.
The internet changes with every mouse click made by every user on every website every single second of every single day. These mouse clicks are tracked and sites around the world are changed as a result of where we go and what we enter. This exponential change is likely to deliver many other types of networking sites in the future and may cool the hype associated with some of the most popular tools used today. In the end, the value of relationships, honest information and appealing content will continue regardless of who is cheering for what.
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