Social Media Marketing Future Perfect

Marketing is about many things, among which are selling and promoting but above all, it’s about creating meaningful relationships with customers. This is also what social media marketing is all about. I have to laugh though when I think back almost fifty years to my childhood in Foynes.  We had a form of social media marketing back then too!  Willie “Butcher” knew what cuts of meat our household needed every week, just as Mr. King knew what kind of tea leaves to mix from the various aromatic tea-chests in his shop. Mrs. Nash in Newcastle West sat us down on chairs in her drapery store and brought out the latest in botany wool cardigans and plaid skirts.

This was in the early nineteen sixties – was this social marketing? Sure it was.  Every store owner and every supplier, be it coal, food, carpets or furniture, had a direct, personal relationship with his and her customer.  I do not recall anyone advertising in print with any great frequency,  back then it seemed for the most part to be word of mouth marketing.

Then we skip on into the era of mass-production.  Although the term “mass-production” was first recognized as early as 1926, it wasn’t until the sixties and seventies that it really impacted our society at large, with the birth of the big retail stores and their attendant global impersonality.  While Mr. King still had his chests full of tea leaves, many shoppers were buying Barry’s, Lyons and Lipton tea in paper packaging, one pound at a time.

Recent history tells us that the whole off-the-rack and wholesale warehouse deal did not work out too well for us.  Consumers became jaded with the sameness of it all, and a gradual decline in quality.  All over the world, roofs are being ripped off indoor malls in an effort to entice consumers with a “village” type appeal.  Store fronts are being weathered and made to look vintage, rather than cold aluminum and glass.  War is being waged by communities in towns and villages all across America to keep the Wal-Mart’s and Targets out, with mixed results.

Even New York City does not want Wal-Mart. Efforts are being made to revitalize the country’s main street shopping centers.  In Monticello, New York, federal funding has dramatically altered the town’s main shopping street, Broadway.  A low brick and stone divider was built down the center of the broad main street, with wide new sidewalks, clearly defined parking spaces in front of stores, and liberal tree, flower and shrub plantings.  Many of the store owners are altering the nineteen fifties era facades to a vintage, classic style, creating a very pleasant ambience.

The consumers are slow to return, however, with the low prices if questionable quality of Wal-Mart on the outskirts of town, and the ease of online shopping from their own homes and phones.  With all this consumer choice comes consumer confusion, making marketing even more important today than it was in the Mad Men days.   How we find a way through the marketing maze for the average business with the array of options available today is an art in itself.

Now, with the emergence of social media, there are people like me teaching people like you how to create (or more accurately, re-create) these coveted direct, personal relationships with your existing and potential customers.  Yes, indeed, we live in interesting times and everything old is new again. That’s not the whole story of course. Marketing today, especially social media marketing, is a finely honed, clearly defined art.  Like anything with the appearance of clean simplicity, it requires a great deal of effort to give it that appearance.  Over the last three years, the old, hackneyed direct marketing has been making a comeback under the guise of social media marketing and the desire to (re)create those elusive meaningful relationships between business and consumer.

Marketing as an industry was first recognized back in June of 1915, when the National Association of Teachers of Advertising (NATA) was founded from the annual convention of the Association of Advertising Clubs of the World in Chicago. By 1937, a series of mergers between NATA and other Associations produced The American Marketing Association.  A little later, in 1917, came the Direct Mail Advertising Association.  Homer J. Buckley of Chicago was elected president that first year, leaving an indelible stamp on the world of direct marketing.  Following mergers and name changes, this is now the Direct Marketing Association.

As an aside here, I can’t recommend highly enough Homer J. Buckley’s 1919 book on Business Letter Writing: a course in fifty assignments.  Available as a free eBook from Google Play, it is relevant today to all practitioners of social media. Explaining in very clear language, almost step by step, it sets out the highs and lows of communicating with the consumer – your customer.

Direct marketing was initially tailored to the customer.  For example, a sales pitch or piece of advertising material would be cleverly disguised as a personal letter with the salutation: “Dear Margaret”.  Each mail piece would reach just that one individual addressee.  Today’s direct marketing takes that same piece of copy, integrates it into a social media campaign across several platforms, and thereby reaches a multitude of people in the time it takes to move the mouse and click “send”.  How do we do that?

In keeping with the overtly simplistic vision of social media marketing, let’s cut social media down to bite-sized chunks.  Given all the different platforms floating around out there in the social media stratosphere, choosing platforms can be overwhelming, even for a seasoned marketer.  So, to answer how to maximize your reach, let’s first define social media. What is it, this social media? To create as simplistic a definition as possible, we can say that social media marketing is the art of creating personal relationships between business and consumer.  That’s all it is.  A few years ago, the claim was that all marketing was direct marketing.  Today, we claim that all marketing is direct social media marketing.

Whether you’re sending a direct mail piece via USPS (and yes, people still do that to good effect); posting on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, or Pinning on Pinterest and LoveIt, keep your message simple and direct. Don’t believe that you are posting to an unknown number of potential customers; you are sending a direct, personal message to your existing customer.  You are using social media to market your product or service to one person – its personal, targeted, direct marketing.

The advantage to you is that each one of your one thousand-plus customers likely has five hundred or more friends – do the math.  Your reach, in one pared-down, simple message, has just expanded to almost half a million people.

The vast majority of social media platforms are free for advertiser to use, leaving marketers free to spend their budgets on newspaper, magazine, radio and TV advertising.  The question now is how best to leverage your social media exposure.  An initial step for anyone beginning an integrated social media marketing campaign is to sit down with a marketing consultant and decide the overall message to be presented. Then look at all your different marketing options, and decide which part of the message will be best suited to which advertising medium.  Segment out the various stories you want to tell, and integrate them all: pulling them together to create one brilliant marketing strategy!

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