Beware of bright shiny things.

Beware of bright shiny things.

There’s an understandable urgency among most marketers today. In large companies, where the career span of a Chief Marketing Officer is 22 months, it’s not enough to just keep pace – you have to win. In smaller companies where the marketing hat may be just one of many worn by the owner/CEO, market share bought on the cheap is essential: grow or die.

Stop Looking for the Silver Bullet

It isn’t at all surprising to see marketers of all sizes and industries rushing about “going social,” “going mobile,” “going social again.” Not that innovation and trying new things, isn’t a good idea. Innovation is crucial to finding what works best for your prospects and your brand. But, the problem arises when the motive isn’t about trying new media or new programs, but rather about a desperate search for the silver bullet. Or, in most cases, a bullet made of a cheaper ore like mimetite. The problem arises when we fall in love with bright shiny things.

When we drive our marketing into new media purely to be an early adopter, or because people [some of them who purport to be experts] keep pushing in that direction, we’re pursuing innovation for innovation’s sake. Do you suffer from “bright shiny thing syndrome?”

Contributing writer Adam Kleinberg [6 Ways to Kill Your Marketing Career, iMedia Connection, June 30, 2010] offers five symptoms that may suggest you have this syndrome and fall too quickly in love with innovation:

“How do you know if you have this disease?

  • Are you feverishly planning your new iPad app without knowing why?
  • Do you think Foursquare mayor specials are going to replace your TV budget?
  • Would you like to replace company HQ with a Facebook fan page?
  • Are you spending more time worrying about how Twitter is going to monetize its business than how you are going to monetize your own?

Twitter, Linked In, mobile, Facebook , etc., are not for everybody. At a minimum, managed properly, they are very labor intensive. As Ian Lurie writes in Conversation Marketing, “Social media is not some phenomenon that’s unique to the online world. It is not a revolution in marketing. It is not the way to instant millions in your Inbox. It takes time.” And, it’s possible that your particular product or service is best marketed in a different environment.
But, relax: there’s no such thing as “anti social” media, so you’ll do just fine if your own marketing needs don’t automatically embrace new media.

Test and Learn

There is no social media train leaving the station. There are no social media experts. There are some people who know a lot about social media and you may find them an asset. But, if someone says they’re a social media expert, run – don’t walk – away. Social media isn’t something new: it’s about connecting with others to get the word out and we’ve done that forever. True, there are new tools and protocols for connectivity, but the principle has been around forever.

So, with all due respect to the new media and understanding that companies want immediate results, may we humbly substitute “Test and Learn” for “Wait and See”?

“Wait and See” is an open admission that you’re willing to let others do the learning for you. It is a defeatist, risk averse, surrender. “Test and Learn” is trial and error: an openness to try, a recognition that not everything will be successful.

Most importantly, “Test and Learn” is about metrics and if there is one thing The Miller Group believes in, it is establishing performance metrics. It’s interesting to see a lot of smart marketers move into social media as if Tweets, Followers and Fans were the key metrics. What about sales, customer retention, margins, channel management, share price, etc? Aren’t those what the original marketing purpose was all about?

You Can’t Win ‘Em All, All the Time

Failures? You’re bound to have some. If it makes you feel any better WalMart failed dismally with it’s social network site called “The Hub.” It was aimed at kids, but it turned out that informing parents of their kids’ registration was great for the parents, very uncool for the kids. Plus, Wal Mart screened content – we join social networks to express ourselves not to have our messages audited or edited. As if that weren’t enough, kids couldn’t communicate – they couldn’t leave private messages or send e-mails to each other.

Wouldn’t you think they would have thought that through before launching the site?

Or, how about golf equipment brand Titleist? They created a website for a fictional golfer and promoted it offline with TV ads in major tournaments. And, while the site wasn’t all that bad, there was no call to action for people to share content; or any incentives for them to upload music and videos which was the original plan. Apparently, the content on the site was less than average. “Okay” content won’t go viral; great content can and sometimes, does.

But, how many times do you find yourself discussing content vs the discussions of new media channels. It’s almost as if just being there – irrespective of content – is enough.

So, in the midst of all the pressure to do something, or when the boss comes in waving an article about Twitter or Facebook, take a deep breath and avoid the temptation to rush out do something. Anything. Instead, remind yourself about how the buying process for your product or service works today and figure out how connectivity can best serve that process. Remind everyone around you that CONTENT still matters, so unless there is something to share don’t.

And, avoid falling in love with bright shiny things. Maybe it’s better to just take some tarnish remover to the old tried and true.

This article is written from the personal perspective of Bill Williams. The opinions and views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Miller Group Advertising.

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