Social Media Marketing is not new. It is word of mouth amplified

I keep hearing about organisations that get Social Media wrong and blaming it on the newness of the medium. What rubbish!
Social Media is not new, but it is vastly different to any form of advertising. The earliest from of social media was ‘word of mouth’, i.e. people talking to each other about products and experiences. This was far more powerful than advertising as the experiences of an actual user was perceived as more real than anything a manufacturer would provide. However Word of mouth was limited in its scope because it was well, word of mouth, one person talking face to face to another.  Marketers had the communication power as they controlled/used massive advertising campaigns.
Jim Louderback in his article “5 Critical Lessons from a Social Media Campaign Gone Horribly Wrong” points out some salient issues. Check out the details here.
The case is an example from the wine industry, but the travesties have nothing to do with the product. They are all to do with the belief from a lot of marketers that social media is just another media vehicle to be utilized the same way as publishing or broadcast media. This as we known is powerfully wrong.
Marketers cannot claim that social media is new to them; they have used word of mouth campaign. The direct mail industry devised advocacy programs, AKA member get member campaigns. In a previous role as marketing manager for a direct mail wine retailer in Australia I used member get member campaigns. They were the most effective means of acquiring new members.
Two things have changed. One is the capacity of people talking to each other and sharing experiences about products and services. Instead of peoples interactions being limited to one on one it is now, courtesy of social media sites, conversations involving millions of people. The second change is the speed at which people mobilize and express opinion. One of the many mistakes highlighted in the Louderback article was the failure of the company to act in a timely manner. A timely manner is now not weeks or even days, but fractions of days. The balance of communication power has shifted to the consumer.
Instead of marketing being a one way communication flow it now needs to become a two way interaction between companies and customers (both actual and potential).
I believe that social media will become the vehicle through which brands are built or damaged.
An interesting thought is that social media may also bring back loyalty between companies and consumers, but that’s another topic; and one which I will soon address.


Bruce M

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