The Magnetic Force of Social Media

I think the most common question I get is, “Why did you get into social media?” If fact I was just asked this on the Tonya Hall Show just yesterday. (The program should be archived shortly if you missed it.) I am not a millennial (birth date ranging somewhere from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s) and so many assume that social media is just for the generation that have been exposed to instant communication technologies (email, texting, IM, mobile, Internet, etc.) all their life.

But let’s first take a step back. I took my first computer class as a senior in high school in 1980. We used teletype computers based on time sharing where you actually placed a telephone handset in a cradle to connect to a computer. Later that year, my teacher brought in the first Apple computer and said the entire computer was there in front of us – what a shock. Do you know how much more powerful your smart phone in your pocket is than what we used back then? Boy – does that date me … no problem … evolution is a great thing – if you let it happen.

Skip ahead a few years … I go to college and get a BS degree in Computer Engineering; get a job as a software engineer, but my professional interests are untapped. One hint should have been that when I was in college, most of my friends were psychology majors. I went back to school (while working full time) and got a Master of Engineering Management, majoring in the Marketing of Technology. This was an extremely important event in my life. As I later determined, “marketing” is the psychology of business – or at least one needs to be a “consumer psychologist” to be an effective marketer.

What does this mean to be a consumer psychologist? It is pretty simple. It means understanding your target audience – their perspective, not yours. It means speaking and acting to their wants, needs, motivations, and behaviors while at the same time recognizing their dislikes. It means using this information to out-smart your competition and create meaningful, valuable differentiation that clearly distinguishes your brand in a most positive light relative to your competitors.

I learned the importance of marketing to be completely integrated into every business aspect. If marketing is just something at the end of the business process for your product or service via advertising, communication and overall lead generation, the brand as a whole is doomed. After all, customers want value, not a cute saying or logo.

This reminds me of something an old boss of mine (who later got fired) once said to me. He said, “Steve – you’ll never be successful in marketing. You’re too honest.” Too honest? Marketing is NOT about spin. It is about understanding your customer, delivering them true value, communicating that value, and utilizing influencers to help you spread the word.

So having shared with you my 20 years of marketing in 3 ½ minutes, do you see the magnetic force of social media on me? For someone that really understands effective traditional marketing, social media offers tremendous opportunities. No, it is not a silver bullet and the cure all, but it is an awesome vehicle for successful brand marketing.

I mentioned four high-level attributes of efficient marketing. Now let me point out why social media plays an important role with these:

• Understand your customer – just start listening. There are some excellent social media monitoring tools to use and some are even free.
• Deliver value – it is about sharing useful information, not selling.
• Communicating the value – there are so many environments where your customers congregate that allow you to engage with them.
• Capture influencers – use social media to identify your advocates and grant them added privileges, rewards, incentives, and thank them.

I don’t mean to say these are the only positives of social media. There are so many more for other parts of the business organization (customer service/support, research, etc.) I am just saying that as a marketing executive, social media provides a fundamental and significant shift for marketing. Social media is a new marketing toolset. But one can not just jump on the bandwagon without being rooted in traditional marketing fundamentals – they are still as applicable as ever. Social media is for the honest marketer, because if you BS something, you’ll be called on it in the social public forum.

Last week, I read a great article by Mitch Joel. It was titled “The Big(ger) Marketing Shift.” I highly, highly recommend you read it, but then give it some deep thought with regards to what it means for you and your brand (personal or professional). In the article Mitch suggests, “The consumers have changed. Marketing must change.” Right on. This is the essence of the magnetic force social media has had on me.

I love marketing. I love analyzing the target audience. I love defining the new business process and new points of integration. While others are comfortable doing the same old, I love exploration in new territory. I love evolution.

What about you?

“And may the force be with you.”

Make It Happen!
Social Steve



Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

10 responses to “The Magnetic Force of Social Media

  1. I bought my first computer in 2002, just before doing a multimedia masters degree, when I left school in 1981 we didn’t have any or use of any. So why does social media draw me? Connections, collaborations, sharing, informing, helping and on and on.

    Since 1982 I have been in social networking [only just released it was named so]. As an artist and performance artist all that was important was interaction, participation, collaborations, sharing, engaging and building relationships. What was a piece of art worth if I made it and people simply ‘liked’ it. Instead I went out of my way to get reaction and make the audience creative too where possible.

    I was also very active in ‘mail art’ and when someone says isn’t it odd having friends on Facebook you don’t know and will never meet, my answer is I have less there [685] than I had on my mailing list when doing ‘mail art’. Some of these people are still close friends and we still haven’t met.

    I also spent 15 years performing as a living sculpture barely moving on top of a plinth up to 8 hours a day again for interaction and participation. More importantly this taught me about audience analysis otherwise everyone would simply walked by if I hadn’t understood their needs in connection to my movement.

    Now helping people develop and manage a more effective online presence by using these methods to simply engage and build relationships that last. If only more people [I make contact with] could see how my skills and experiences can help.

    Thanks for the post Steve, apologies for rambling.

    • Mark – Ramblings? No way. Great to hear more of the story behind you … how interesting. And yes, you have used a form of social media long before many of us ever knew of the name. Cool background!

      Thanks for sharing!


      • Always enjoy your posts whether seen late sunday evening or early monday morning always good to start the week.

        Most important are the connections that can be made, personally through mail art I connected with soviet security officers, artists world wide, some in prisons, some in war zones, some celebrated and some simply at home.

  2. Love your ideas and attitudes toward social media! Good stuff.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  3. It’s great to hear a marketer talking about honesty, understanding the customer, and providing value. It’s also clear that you practice those things, and nice to see someone successful when taking an honest, customer-first perspective in marketing.

    I actually hail from more of a user-centered design perspective. While social media is being owned and run primarily by marketing or PR, I think we may see UX people becoming more involved. For one thing, as I’ve blogged about, social elements are going to be incorporated more deeply and uniquely in websites going forward. But more importantly for this discussion, a core skill for user-experience people is assessing customer needs and goals, understanding how users act in a given environment, and finding ways to meet their goals while meeting the business and stakeholder goals as well. Sounds an awful lot like good social media and the approach you’re taking, doesn’t it?

    Thanks, Steve. It was fun reading about your background. I’ll date myself and say that I started in the late 70’s learning Fortran and Basic in high school on a Dec machine…

    • Hi Neicole,

      Great to hear from you and having you comment on my blog. (Always love the stuff you put out!)

      To your point about about social media from a UX perspective … I agree – this makes total sense. I have suggested (in a few places, even here on the blog maybe a year ago or so) that we take a dramatic approach and throw away organizational structure as we know it today for something that better mimics how customers interface with companies … a true customer centric organization.

      Always good to hear from you.


  4. jeannine


    I never like to agree that social media belongs in marketing departments, as there is always a need to ‘equate to dollars’, no matter what the initial objective says to the contrary.

    Your four attributes to essential marketing, however, would make me reconsider. It is all about the customer. There was a great article in a past HBR edition that supported the structure of a CCO organization in companies, with marketing reporting into that organization. I could see a great success story with a marketing department that reported into such an organization that aligned with your four attributes.

    I plan to cut and paste these into an email and send them off to a few marketing colleagues that could be a bit more focused on the customer aspect.

    Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed the article, the insight, and your story.

    Jeannine 🙂

    • Thanks Jeannine,

      Appreciate your comments. Earlier in the year, I wrote an article “Where Social Media Fits in Your Organization” at where I claimed that social media should not be in marketing. That the emergence of social media reinforced the need for a cnew ustomer organization under a CCO much like you have suggested.

      I go back and forth in my mind on this. It really depends on the company, the company culture, and the ability of their marketing organization to be customer centric. I think MOST of the skills and experience required for social media are typical from marketing people – certainly not all.

      Anyway, let the debate continue. (In my head and elsewhere.)


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