Overheard: “Campaign to Leverage Social Media Users”

I’m with quite a few late adopters of Social Media, in fact, I’m at Forrester’s Finance Forum here in NYC, one of the banking centers of the world. I can often tell the level of sophistication of industries to social media by the type of language they use, in fact, I’ve used these phrases when I didn’t know any better.

Phrases like:

“Campaigns” which convey short wartime activities of bomb dropping and tank rolling to advance territory.

Rookies who want to benefit from word of mouth, or are approaching it the same way as interactive marketing or advertising may say “Leveraging Social Media”, as if doing a little to gain a lot from this medium.

Or describing people as “users” rather than community “members”

Describing this movement as “UGC” vs “people sharing”

So what’s in a name, phrase, or description? A lot, actually. It’s a clear indicator to me on the approach that a brand is going to take, and I can often predict the results will end up looking like an interactive campaign on a social network, rather than a community discussion where the brand is involved. There’s no reason to get emotional or religious about it, it’s just that this type of thinking is likely to result in getting a brand punk’d, or worse yet, no one coming resulting in complacency. I’m no ‘phrase police’ but when I hear it quietly am able to segment where folks are at, that’s all, now you try, what causes you to wince?

For what it’s worth, if you go back to my archives you’ll see I’ve used these same phrases a few years ago –guilty!

23 Replies to “Overheard: “Campaign to Leverage Social Media Users””

  1. >I™m with quite a few late adopters of Social Media

    You are right Jeremiah. About 15 months back, we were trying to educate a senior executive of an Investment Bank about the benefits of social computing and especially blogs and his response was “I want my Investment Bankers to cut deals and not waste their time in blogging” 🙂 but things have changed quite fast since then.


  2. I agree that terms have meaning, but I think terms like “users” and “UGC” are often more accurate than “members” or “people sharing”.

    I’m a “member” of my family, my church, my company, my friends and my community – I “belong” to them. I’m a user of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Corkd, etc. I often use the later to access the former, but social media is only a means to an end. As a company, the biggest mistake is believing that being a “member” in social media means you somehow belong to the same “community” as other members. It doesn’t.

    Also, I don’t find “user” a derogatory term. I am engaged by and have a great affinity for many things I use, but don’t belong to.

  3. Jaggers…I can just imagine the reception of this sort of semantic wordplay in our emerging economy…primo territory for jibes and pokes on the part of the professional set. (I repeat, they’ll use the terms, but not without some due scoffing and chuckling along the way).

    I recall an interview I did with a relatively senior staffperson at the US Embassy here in Prague, and the caution with which he chose to describe various terms and activities at the Embassy — even a one-time PC Canuck like me had to giggle it up. Most locals would eschew making differentiations like that in private conversation. Perhaps why the marketing epicenter is quite distant from our lands…

    Having said that — an emerging market might be *precisely* that same ripe playing field in which to possibly inculcate new (and correct) terminologies upon the marketing industry and other foreign-inspired entities here in the Czech Republic — slowly increasing the heat and the tempo until such differentiators as user/member, etc. become common parlance.

    An idea, y’think?

    It might be met with resistance at the beginning — as most Western-inspired innovations are out here…but I see posts like this carefully shaping the conversation — thank you for it, as always.

  4. Terminology is definitely a useful way to gauge someone’s mindset. As someone just starting to understand social media, I feel like I’m in transition from the “old” words to the “new” ones, and that transition correlates with my level of understanding. I don’t think that someone who uses the phrases you mentioned is necessarily a lost cause or necessarily even means those words in the ways that you’ve mentioned – that kind of language just provides an opportunity to reinforce the ideas of social marketing by highlighting the use of the word and explaining why it’s not really applicable in this area.

  5. Tom could you clarify what you mean by “the biggest mistake is believing that being a member in social media means you somehow belong to the same community as other members”?

    I’m a newbie to this blog but I lurk about because I think Jeremiah has something to say, so at this point I would agree, I am a user.

    That said, there are plenty of blogs and communities on the internet of which I “lurked” on and now I am quite engaged. I feel membership to those communities because I’ve had discussions with people, sometimes heated, about topics important to me. I might be misreading your comment, and perhaps we have a different idea of what “membership” is but I’m not sure you have to working at a desk or kneeling on a pew to be a member of anything. Let me know your thoughts.

  6. Jeff Rohrs from ExactTarget had some good things to say on this topic at an ET seminar.

    He did his presentation “Subscribers Rule” and advised the marketers in the audience to get rid of the term “list” and start using the term “subscribers.”

    He used the same reasoning you (wisely) do: you get further if you treat people like people.

    In one of my recent posts, I ended with something akin to “It turns out that people like dealing with people more than they like dealing with marketing robots. Imagine that?” After I wrote it I reflected on how INSANE it is that that is needing to be said.

    Thanks for your work!

  7. I have to admit I am also guilty of using some of these terms – campaigns, users, etc.

    In all fairness the industry I am currently in probably has no clue what descriptions are appropriate. There is a learning curve. I suddenly have visions of classrooms full of CEO and business executives repeating words on the chalk board being pointed at by the teacher.

    OK class repeat after me….

    Someone should put together a social media vocabulary, if one doesn’t already exist.

  8. I think you need to take the industry into account. By this I mean the level of maturity and how ‘core’ social media, or even the web, is looked at by the industry. While we may go to the movies and describe the film going experience in our ways as consumers, I’m sure filmmakers scoff at the language we use. But that doesn’t mean that I enjoy movies any less than someone in the industry.

    That said, it’s in part our responsibility as industry torch bearers to help these heathens get it! 😉

  9. Another word I’d like to see vanish: consumer.

    Should *citizen* replace consumer, user or whatever word has been used int he past (or currently)?

    Social media offers the opportunity for people to be intelligent, informed brains capable of not only making better decisions but also in participating in the actual development of products & services.

    If SM is truly the Great Democratizer, then the members of the community are *citizens*.

    Does that make sense, my fellow citizens?

  10. You have touched on an area that I struggle with daily. My day job is with IP Commerce and we work with banks to help them acquire and retain customers through SMB payment solutions. The concept of open software, SOA principles and SaaS aren’t new to the software industry, but are foreign to the financial world. It takess a lot of explaining for banks to understand our value, but they get it.

    You have to remember that after 9/11 plus all of the corporate scandals of the earlier part of the decade, banks and financial institutions were hammered with legislation and regulations. All of their technology efforts, until recently, have been focused on security, SOX audits, Check 21 and the like. The only way they grew was by acquiring smaller banks. Now there are no banks left to buy and they know they need to innovate to maintain growth, but they don’t know how.

    They may be behind the 8-ball in understanding the value, but they do understand the need. This makes for great business opportunities for people like you and me, but expect to do a lot of explaining in the process.

  11. My personal wince-inducer is “Mediums,” as opposed to Media. I want to know where the smalls and larges are.
    Regarding campaigns… Even at two leading online media conferences in the past week, where lots of leaders on the subject were talking, focus centered around campaigns and “media transactions” (buying and selling impressions). That’s where everyone is still thinking because that’s where money is being spent (not invested). It will be a long road before “campaigns” turn into “relationships.”

  12. ‘Leverage’ as in ‘to improve or enhance’ as opposed to the above interpretation of ‘do little.’ Doesn’t sound bad to me, particularly when it means improving or enhancing the social chatter so that it drives business results.

    But ‘people sharing?’ I have to say, we work with big brands, big media and big government on a daily basis and I’ve never heard anyone use that term – sounds almost illegal. 🙂 Fortunately with social media, we can all learn from one another without predisposing or segmenting based on a choice of word – and discussions like this help us to do just that!

  13. Hi Shehan – All I’m saying is some companies assume by merely using blogs and social media they will magically obtain street cred or build brand affinity with their customers.

    Alan Wolk of tangerinetoad.blogspot.com/ coined the phrase “your brand is not my friend”. Companies/brands should first understand the relationship their customers want to have with them. It’s undoubtably quite different than the relationships most people have using social media.

  14. The words we use can have influence the way we think and feel about something. The financial industry sells a high-concept product and I would think they would understand that it is to their benefit to use the communication tools their customers are using and to communicate in a ‘voice’ that is respectful, sincere and authentic.

    Working with New Media is not like buying an ad on a highway billboard. It’s much closer to picking up the phone and calling someone personally. The communications style needs to be aligned with the type of communications medium you are using.

    Yes, there’s a learning curve, but it shouldn’t be that hard to understand some of the basics.

  15. J tweeted ” A speaker just said “this isnt marketing this is real” funny or true?”

    I believe its true, adding it’s real Life.

    I see sincere, unapologetic people who meet a company that is empowering them with relevant, useful, no obligation information or services. The service is a medium for the people.

    The wording in my opinion is a reflection of a company’s thought process. So sad to see a Co. spending Money, Time on “doing something web 2.0”, rather than processing opinion and research finding their Niche in the whole thing. Companies are needing intelligent dot connectors.

    My hope is the industry stays humble, so much can change in 6 months.

    I’m all for companies pulling from within and investing in a team of people that would have the Gumption to connect those dots rather than a person touting “web 2.0 capabilities”.

  16. I think it takes time for people to think of the perfect phrase to describe exactly what they mean, and until that happens they just use what they know instead. Just as developing the perfect community outreach program takes time, semantics have an evolution as well.

    Some day we might think saying “social media” shows our age. It just takes time.

  17. Sometimes the vocabulary is a giveaway to the way people feel about “using” social media. Social media can’t be “used,” and that’s the problem. Marketers “use” tools. Big problem, because social media tools are communications tools, and yet they can’t be “used.” This is pretty subtle and will take a while to get.

  18. You’re absolutely right, Jeremiah. I was looking at the website of a competitor social media agency, and it said, “We do 4 to 6 campaigns for clients per month.”

    That told me that they were thinking about this world much differently than we are…


  19. We are implementing Social Media strategy for a firm in the cyber foresenic space. The client mentioned “If people talk about us – we are in business”. Our client is well aware of “Conversations” and Importance of “Knowledge Sharing” as way to make information safer. Encapsulated within approach this is subtle marketing message.

    Sandeep Arora

  20. Hey Jeremiah! Ijust blogged about this today. Here’s what makes me wince: “Let’s brainstorm on a viral marketing / video campaign.”

  21. Terminology is definitely a useful way to gauge someone's mindset. As someone just starting to understand social media, I feel like I'm in transition from the “old” words to the “new” ones, and that transition correlates with my level of understanding. I don't think that someone who uses the phrases you mentioned is necessarily a lost cause or necessarily even means those words in the ways that you've mentioned – that kind of language just provides an opportunity to reinforce the ideas of social marketing by highlighting the use of the word and explaining why it's not really applicable in this area.

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