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I set out to write a follow up blog to my Pinterest (one of many more on the topic over the next 6 mos. I’m sure)  when I came across this piece on Mashable.

“Rather than using people for statistical gains, brands and marketers should focus on defining their voice and creating a community of dedicated followers with whom they regularly interact,” they advise. “The best practice is to think of each pin, each Like, each comment and each follow as a tiny gesture between two people building a relationship. Through many small interactions, a connection is fostered that is based on trust and loyalty. And those are the types of connections that make a single community member so valuable.”

(This came from Shelby McLeod, group director of earned media at The Barbarian Group, and Noah King, senior social media lead at The Barbarian Group)

I read it and thought, wow. These guys at Barbarian have it absolutely right. No need to re-invent the post. I’ll just link to this article and be done with it.

But this morning, I sat down with a smallish (2-3M in revenue) online fashion retail client of mine and was trying to explain (in an informal/non-PowerPointed way) how he needs to be on Pinterest and how it can help him.

And as much as I agree 1000% with what the good folks at Barbarian have to say, that  conversation above is not going to fly with a small business owner who’s most precious commodity is truly his/her time. As I sat across from him in the warehouse, and he was processing orders and updating inventory in real-time, before he goes out and spends the afternoon shipping product. That guy doesn’t have the time to deal in tiny gestures.  That  guy wants to know if he can start posting coupons codes this afternoon.

Again from the folks at Barbarian:

“If the goals are short-sighted, then using cheap tactics like [that] are effective…. [But] the short-term gains won’t have much of a long-term impact.”

I agree, and disagree here… They reference brands like Barney’s and Wholefoods who are using Pinterest and other social media to have these ‘little conversations’ that lead to trust and loyalty. Barneys and Wholefoods didn’t build their brands on social media. It’s a small (I’m guessing) part of multimillion dollar marketing mix. They can they can afford to take a long term approach to develop those relationships online. But the short term gains for a small business might be that they get to stay in business for another couple of quarters.

And while this may be more prominent working with small and emerging businesses, it’s really no different with global brands.

I recall a Fortune 100 company that would push me every quarter for useless media placement (“hits”) in daily various daily newspapers  around the country. We’d concoct press release with little news value then try to push them on editors as important stories (often leveraging our media buys as proof points). I soon realized that these were always coming at near the end of the quarter and eventually  found out that a significant part of my client’s bonus was tied to the raw number of stories they had in the press during those 3 month periods.

So what is what our responsibility is as marketing professionals? To bring best practices to the company for long term success, or to meet our clients day-to-day objectives? It’s a  tight rope walk we each face daily. And one that gets narrower and windier as the economy tightens and bottom lines require more and more immediate results.

In a perfect world, the answer would be both. Let’s develop a program to get some immediate results – Get a couple of “first downs,” in football parlance.  But we need to keep an eye on the long term .

We marketing types are guilty of overselling the “hot new thing” as a panacea.  Although I’m not sure this is what they were trying to say, Team Barbarian has it absolutely right – managing expectations is key.

If fostering connections and developing a community of loyal followers are your success criteria then you’ve got the right perspective. And many a small business has, in fact been built on utilizing social media exclusively as their marketing arm. Our success as marketing professionals (and ultimately the success of our clients) depends on demonstrating to our clients who don’t have global branding budgets that these aren’t nebulous goals and to think beyond immediate bottom line impact.

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