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john kottcamp

I’m really enjoying the various discussions going one in many places regarding the way social media is changing the entire dynamic in marketing. However, while I would agree with most of your comments and those of Bob Schettino, I think his closing statement about marketing communications begins, not ends with the publication and distribution of your message misses an important point in the nature of this new marketing dynamic. Talking about the beginning or the end of marketing communication still implies some sort of lineal formula. It suggests that marketing communication is still some sort of monologue (advertising) or dialogue (relationship marketing) rather than a matrixed customer experience with the brand, the brand being the whole person rather than the traditional face as you mentioned.

I believe the new dynamic being brought to center through social media channels, does not necessarily begin at all with the company, its product or service or even its brand. Today’s social interaction often begins with someone looking for a solution to a problem. Think of all the search queries that either begin with, “How do I…” or imply that request in the selection of particular search term. And this is only the world of search. I believe it’s more prevalent in the conversations taking place in online communities, evidenced by the growth of ratings-based sites like Angie’s list.
This means that the introduction of a specific product or service often can come at any point in the communication cycle and in a way that is not controllable by the company or its marketing department. Brand perception may be already filtered by community members without regard for how a company would like itself to be perceived. And this is the challenge for us as marketers today, to be prepared to influence brand perception, but from several degrees of separation.

Chris Kenton


Thanks for posting. I understand your point, but I believee there is a point--some point--at which a company puts a stake in the ground by committing resources to some kind of product or service. It may be informed by social input, it may be informed only by the whim or inspiration of the CEO. But at some point, you formulate something that you do in fact, at least initially, broadcast to invite response. RSS, pingomatic, syndication, are all about pushing a message out that originates somewhere. Someone had the idea to create Angie's List and put that stake in the ground as a place where people could congregate and create content.

Stowe Boyd often makes the point that there is no audience anymore--essentially anhilating the concept of broadcast altogether. I respectfully disagree. Whenever I write a blog post, my ideas are not a channeling of the blogosphere, they are ideas that I think about, chew on, rethink, and finally formulate into something before I put them out there, hoping others will respond. It is absolutely part and parcel of the creative process to conceive of an audience, and to even change our message based on our conception of the audience. If we didn't actually intend for others to hear what we say and respond, we'd have no need of communication at all. What would be the point?

To me, a better formulation is that broadcasting to an audience still occurs, but it's a constantly pivoting axis, where the audience constantly changes and the broadcasters constantly change. It's as if you were watching a play, and suddenly members of the audience were able to stand up and meaningfully respond, riff, or debate what was going on the in the play. But the discussion has an anchor, something from which a cogent interplay of dialog can emerge. And I think marketing is a lot like that now. It still requires a company to think intelligently about its core competencies and resources, its relative position to others with a similar offering, and its relationship with members of a market community willing to exchange value--to pay for some product or service. In that sense, I think talking about where marketing begins is useful, and clearly shifting.

What do you think?

Mike Volpe

Interesting points & I agree. The job of marketing has changed. The way I like to think about it is that the job of marketing used to be to create materials that cast the company and its products in the best light. Now, I think the job of marketing is to create materials that are interesting to the people in your target market (and probably less about your company and products). In the age when consumers have so much control over what they read, hear and watch, you need to engage them with content that is of interest to them, and then have the right materials about your company and product available for them when they are ready and interested to learn more about your company and products.

We've been using this exact method to build our online marketing startup, HubSpot. We have a blog at Small Business Hub that has content related to our target market, small businesses. We've built a nice audience of readers for the blog, and we've started to see them get more interest in our company and products, which are on a totally different website. This is a completely different strategy than I used at all the companies I've done marketing for before.

Chris Kenton

Hi Mike--

Thanks for the comments. Cool site and cool idea for connecting blogs and small businesses more closely. I've taken the same approach with my business, and I can see the need for more business oriented tools.

I think in defining the role of marketing, you're describing what I often call the "small m" role of marketing, which traditionally has defined marketing as sales support and marketing communications. Important stuff. The "big M" role of marketing--providing strategic insight into market direction, positioning brands, developing sustainable customer relationships--is also changing. It's a shift from what has traditionally been called "thought leadership", or "authority leadership", to what I would call "social leadership". It's less about relentlessly analyzing and clinically profiling customers and oppportunities than it is about authentic engagement with customers and opportunities as a member of the same market community.

Thanks for the post, Mike.


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