Why Social Network Marketing Misses Out: Playing Solitaire at a Party

If you work at an interactive agency or at a brand that’s interested in marketing at social networks, this post is for you.

Agencies and Brands unsure what to do
I can see the deal now, and I’m sure many of you have been in these meetings (client or agency side). The agency knows the brand manager is familiar, comfortable, with traditional interactive marketing campaigns in the past. So, the agency comes to the table repurposing a successful microsite now to meet a “Facebook strategy”. The brand manager nods, signs off, and the agency gets to work. Weeks to months later, the campaign launches on Facebook, with many of the computer-to-human features that you’d see on a microsite but it doesn’t allow self-expression or the ability to share. As such, only a few folks show up, and it’s written off as a ‘learning experiment’ (corporate translation: fail)

[When it comes to social network marketing, many brands are deploying “computer-to-human” efforts, and therefore missing out on the true community features of self-expression and sharing that “member-to-member” activities provide]

Fail: many brands repurposing microsite strategies
In my recent report “The best and worst of social network marketing” most brands are doing it wrong. In fact, I’m hearing of more and more cases where interactive agencies are repurposing interactive marketing (human to computer) and go to brands (who don’t know what to do) and present a 6-7 digit proposal for a Facebook strategy. Unfortunately, many brands are spending a tremendous amount of resources and missing the most important opportunities. (Deloitte research also backs this up -WSJ)

Solitaire, a terrible party game
Have you noticed that the card game solitaire doesn’t make for a good party game? It’s the same thing when it comes to social networks. Social networks are about self expression, communication, and networking and sharing with others –it’s more akin to social card games like poker, gin, or even mah jong. The core elements of these games encourage sharing, trading, communicating with other players of the party.

Many brands are deploying solitaire games at a party, where everyone is already playing poker. The same concept applies to marketing efforts on social networks. In our research, many were developing efforts that was two-way between the brand and a single member (interactive marketing). Instead, brands missed the core behavior of member to member interaction between the community, therein lies the true opportunity.

Socialization, the missing link
What does this opportunity look like? Getting the members to self-express on your behalf, communicate to each other, and spread the brand values to their own network at a rapid pace. Social networking tools allow for rapid spread of information to ones network –providing they choose to participate in this behavior.

It’s interesting to note that the agency that delivered the only passing grade was Federated Media, who doesn’t come from the traditional interactive agency realm, but instead first with a blog advertising networks, and is slowly expanding into social marketing. Unfortunately, I’ve heard concerns from some that they may not be able to scale to meet enterprise needs that other large existing firms offer, so we’ll have to see if they can grow –while maintaining flexibility.

So, as you start to shop around for ideas to meet your objectives for your social marketing activities, remember that repurprosing the traditional microsites is missing out on the social behaviors that are native to social networks.

Understand the different forms of web marketing
Also, if you need a crash cours on the many different types of marketing available to you learn about the many forms of Web Marketing for 2008, the list grows every year.