Social Marketing Doesn’t Rely on Social Media
Do you believe human beings share certain fundamental traits that define “being human”?
If so, do you believe that human beings tend to behave in certain ways under certain circumstances?
If so, do you then believe since human behavior has these tendencies, it can often be predicted?
If so, then do you think perhaps the study of Psychology and Sociology might provide you some clues to creating successful businesses, campaigns, products, and services? While your friends and competitors are all iterating their way into oblivion?
On the web, time and time again, we see the same themes repeating. Yet with each introduction of a new technology, these themes tend to be treated like a new discovery, even though the theme has been well established in the past.
Norms of Reciprocity is a constant human theme. You may know the expression of these norms as “Sharing”. Web old timers will probably recognize this idea as “Give, then Take” from the I-Sales discussion list as early as 1995. In various forms, this theme goes back to the beginning of human history, all the way back to the handshake and other greeting gestures. This same theme is embedded in countless Religions all over the world: “Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you”. At least a couple centuries old, this idea.
Norms of Reciprocity simply means this: When you do something nice for a human being, help them in some way, this human tends to feel Gratitude towards “the doer” and tends to do something nice back. Gratitude drives the desire to Reciprocate, because it’s just what humans do, it’s normal, a “norm”.
Norms of Reciprocity.
The Gratitude cycle doesn’t depend on what the technology is, or if there is any at all. If anything, technology simply extends the number of humans you can engage in reciprocal behavior with.
I first heard of this theme back in the 1970’s related to the CB radio communities, and it existed before that in ham radio. Since then, we have been through Compuserve Forums in the 80’s, message boards as early as 1985 with The Well, then e-mail discussion groups, to hybrids like Yahoo Groups, and on into Social Media.
And in every case, the same rules of successful interaction within these communities always applied, even though the technology was different. No matter what communications technology the “community” uses, humans find a way to organize it with certain rules.
And the primary driver of these rules is always Norms of Reciprocity. Give, then Take. The rules of successfully participating in any of these communities have not changed at all.
In fact, these reciprocity norms define the meaning of “community”. If a “Give, then Take” attitude is not present in a message to the community, then what you have is a message called Advertising.
Advertising has no “Give”, only “Take”.
What does all this have to do with Marketing?
In mass Advertising, it’s extremely difficult to measure the effects of a campaign at the level of Individuals. You can measure the effects on an Audience as a whole, but not on Individuals.
But when you can measure the impact on Individuals, as you can in many forms of Direct Marketing and on much of online Advertising, now you have the ability to step through a doorway and take advantage of human behavior, including Norms of Reciprocity.
And I think this is where people are getting stuck, including the proponents of everything Social.
These folks are trying to use Audience measurement models to define the success of (Social) Campaigns targeted to Individuals. “Social Media” is an oxymoron; it can’t be Social and Media at the same time.
The bottom line is, if you are going to embrace a two-way Social model in Marketing, you must measure the success of this effort differently. Impressions, reach, size of audience, none of that matters in a model where Relationships – driven by Reciprocity – are the goal.
The above metrics are one-way, broadcast advertising measures. If “Social” or “Relationships” are to be Marketing models, what’s needed is a way to measure a 2-way exchange, a Relationship. If it’s the Relationship that’s important, why would you use a “media metric” to measure success? What you need is a social metric. A measure rooted in Psychology, one that addresses Norms of Reciprocity directly.
The question you are trying to answer in Relationship Marketing is not “how many people did I Reach”? “Influence” or any version of Reach is a crap metric in a Social model; it’s measurement for the sake of measurement. If it’s Reach you are pegging to, then you’re not Social, you are Media, you are All Take. There is no Exchange in Reach; Influence is a Social metric Paradox.
There’s nothing wrong with being Reach-based entity, but just stop calling it Social. You’re a broadcast tower, a magazine, a newspaper. Un-Social; Media. Personally, I don’t think it’s a very good business model, as I said several years ago, unless it goes hyper-vertical to provide context. That means admitting the “Social as Media” business is much, much smaller than everyone thinks it is.
But let’s say you truly want to be a Social entity or use Social techniques to faciliate Marketing. Then the real question you need to answer in this Relationship Marketing scenario is: What is the state of my Relationships – Growing, Strong, Weakening, or Failed?
Because unless to can define “state”, your Social Marketing efforts are not actionable and you are simply Media. What you need to know to make Social Marketing work is this: How likely are people to interact with me in the Future? Because if you know the answer to that question, then you can take the appropriate action against a Growing, Strong, Weakening, or Failed prospect or customer state.
That’s a Relationship. It’s about the future, not the past. It’s about Norms of Reciprocity; what I do for or with you today defines what you are likely to do for or with me in the future. The past is over with; the most important issue is this: where’s the Relationship going?
The question you need to answer in a Social Marketing scenario is not “did they interact with me”, because that’s in the past and there is no Social Power in the past. The power of Social, the value of “Give, Then Take”, is in Tomorrow. Right? Potential Value. How much Reciprocity have I earned, what is the Value of this Gratitude in the Future?
The power of Social is not in how many connections you have.
It’s understanding how to make important connections more valuable.
Fortunately, if you use metrics from Psychology rather than Media, the Value and State of your Relationships – Growing, Strong, Weakening, or Failed – are metrics that are not very difficult to measure (example).
Using these Values and understanding Reciprocity, you can then leverage Gratitude and create campaigns that not only Surprise and Delight customers but make a ton of money at the same time.
When you see how well that works, you will want to start segmenting by Relationship State instead of by demographics or other non-Social “Media Metrics” to increase profits by reducing Relationship Friction.
Once you start seeing the cause and effect of true Social or Relationship Marketing, you might even get good enough to see the value of correcting Relationship mistakes before they happen.
Social = Relationship, Relationship = Psychology, not Media.
If you want to do or be Social, then by all means, get on with it already. There’s already a Model for all this as it applies to Marketing and this model drives profits. The measurement of success in Social is not unknown and does not require continued mystical thought grazing. It simply requires you to decide if you are in fact a Social entity and not in reality a Media outlet with fancy new clothes.
If you are starting up a Social entity, the phrase “Norms of Reciprocity” is your gateway to decades of research and testing on humans as Social animals. This knowledge could save you years of iteration.
If you are already a functioning Social entity, stop gazing into that navel of yours and start publishing quantifiable Metrics from Psychology and Sociology, not Media. You’ll soon find out whether that Social thing you are doing has Marketing value to anybody or not.
If you are a Marketer trying to leverage the Social in all of us to create and strengthen Relationships, stop looking at Social like Media and demand your vendors do the same.
Then everybody can skip the million monkey iteration thing.
Your thoughts on the above?