Understanding Social Media’s Wild Wild West

If you attended the AMA/BusinessWire event on social media, you would have seen these three speakers on stage: Erica O’Grady in her nice pink cowgirl hat, Giovanni Gallucci in a standard issue cowboy hat, front brim tucked down low, and Dave Evans, in a very Austin-esque green cowboy hat, with fringe and blinking lights.

Don’t let the props fool you. Despite the mardis-gras decorations and fun atmosphere, the content presented by each of the panelists was excellent. So much so that all three speakers went over their allotted time. No one stopped them or used a cane to pull them off stage because the content was genuinely great.

The first presenter, Erica O’Grady, is a social media consultant based in Houston, Texas. Although she doesn’t want to claim such a title. Apparently, the term “social media” was the first word condemned to the 9th circle of hell on BuzzwordHell.com. Between this condemnation and the title being usurped by any number of unqualified companies and individuals, Erica decided to use a different title: New Media and Loyalty Marketing Specialist. However, after Erica changed her title no one knew what she did. In other words, the lexicon of the industry is still being formed. And when something as fundamental as choosing the words to describe what we do is in flux, those trying to learn are left in a puddle of confusion.

The night’s second presenter, Giovanni Gallucci, has worked on developing online communities for over 10 years and is an expert in search engine technology. And one of the very first things he said when he took the podium was that he subscribes to a philosophy that overtly contradicts Erica’s methodology. Erica is all about building relationships; Giovanni is all about gaining influence. Erica is about building community and “doing the right thing.” Giovanni has a programming background and is more concerned with crunching numbers and delivering ROI — no matter what it takes. Some might call Erica a practitioner of the softer side of marketing, such as “brand” and “loyalty.” Some might accuse Giovanni of being a practitioner of “black hat” marketing (marketing that might be less than scrupulous).

The important message was to focus on being true to your brand and to your customers. Social media is, in its own way, putting these things under a magnifying glass. In fact, Erica and Giovanni agree that all successful social media campaigns have two things in common: authenticity and an experience that encourages people to participate.

Giovanni shared a great example of why authenticity and participation matter. A company called Viewzi, creators of a new search engine technology, were working on growing the user base and decided to do a video demo to post on YouTube. They hired professional actors, who did a very professional, polished, efficient job. But something about it wasn’t right. So they decided to try again with an “unseasoned” actor, someone they found through a Craig’s List ad. Their new spokesperson was a student at the local university and, as it turned out, was a programmer. And she spoke with authenticity.

The video was posted and the community loved it. It found its way through local TV channels to CNN.com and onto several print outlets. Why? Because the whole process was authentic and encouraged people to get involved.

The evening’s last speaker, Dave Evans brought it all home. Dave recently published Social Media: An Hour a Day, and expounded on a central theme within the book: Social Media gives marketers a unique opportunity to touch customers where traditional marketing can’t reach.

Traditional marketing works well to generate awareness to get your offering into the consideration set of a prospect. But while the prospect is considering which option is best, there’s not much traditional marketing can do. Traditional marketing comes back into play after the prospect essentially raises his or her hand to say “yes, I’m ready to buy,” and helps pull the customer across the finish line. So how does marketing get involved in the consideration phase? Through social media.

The traditional sales funnel has three phases: awareness, consideration, and purchase and the content associated with it is largely marketer generated. The extended sales funnel goes past the point of purchase, when customers are using the product, forming opinions, and making recommendations. All of this is user-generated content that shapes the opinions and outcomes of prospects that are in the consideration phase of the sales funnel.

The Author
Matthew Parente‘s many years of marketing experience have given him the opportunity to master his abilities as an innovator, collaborative leader, and a professional renowned for his attention to detail as well as his analytical and efficiency skills. Noted for his pragmatic approach in creating and implementing marketing strategies and processes, Matthew shares his knowledge frequently by speaking at industry events, educational seminars, blogging, and contributing articles to various publications.