Justin Pearse

Justin Pearse is a former editor of New Media Age who is now head of innovation at Bite Communications. He is also a member of BIMA's executive committee.

12 October 2012 - 10:52am | posted by | 1 comment

Marketers are still asking the wrong questions about social media

Justin Pearse: No stranger to a social media panelJustin Pearse: No stranger to a social media panel

The marketing industry remains obsessed by social media but the problem is that everyone keeps asking the wrong questions.

I spent a bit of time at Social Media Week a couple of weeks ago, appearing on a couple of panels and listening in to others. The week was the best yet and the debate was as vigorous as it always is at a social media gathering, with an engaged and engaging group of very smart people. One thing that struck me though was how, wherever you go in social media circles, the conversation really hadn’t moved on that far from what you would have heard at similar events a year or even two years ago.

This is not in any way to demean such debate; social media remains, despite the continuing media obsession with its fluffier elements, one of the most disruptive digital forces we have ever seen. Despite the wealth of amazing case studies of brands using social media to incredible effect you can read daily here at The Drum and encounter across the industry, most brands are still struggling to understand how best to employ it.

So, it’s unsurprising there’s a desire for healthy debate and desire for knowledge. Ask anyone that runs a marketing publication and they’ll tell you the term ‘social media’ in a headline works on readers like crack cocaine.

What’s interesting though is that debate, across the press and at events, still centres on issues of control and the rules of engagement: how brands can best use this new media to actively engage with consumers, how they can create communities, how to feed these communities, who in a company should ‘own’ such social media engagement, what new platforms and technologies should be used. And why, oh why clients are so reluctant to ditch decades-old control of intransigent brand control.

The discussion is too often about what brands and their agencies can do to ‘use’ social media to change their relations with consumers. Seldom is it about what brands have to do to change their actual businesses to get fit for this new world.

Stanford lecturer and Harvard Business Review writer Nilofer Merchant brought out a fascinating new book last month on the need for businesses to reinvent themselves for the social age. The inability of organisations to truly adopt social media can be simply summed up, she says: “They see social as the purview of two functions: marketing and service but social is not always attached to the word media. Social can be and is more than marketing or communications-related work.”

This view was perhaps put into neater real world context by Scott Monty, global head of social media at Ford, at the Salesforce.com Dreamforce conference a couple of weeks ago. Despite being widely recognised as a leader in social media he said. “Ford doesn’t have a standalone social media strategy…..we have a business strategy supported by social media,” he went on.

He discussed how social media for Ford was no longer about campaigns; it was now about how it helped it operate as a social enterprise,

All this seems to me the biggest prize. The ability of the marketing industry to help brands re-engineer their business to become social by default. To get more people talking like Scott Monty.

Maybe this means the questions everyone should be asking are not about how brands can change their communications strategies for social media but what they need to do to change themselves first.

Justin Pearse is head of innovation at Bite Communications and a BIMA executive committee member.

Don't miss out... Get your Advertising news by email

Comments

23 Oct 2012 - 15:31
jason41938's picture
1
comments

Well, you have excellent points but the fact still remains that clients being clients, they think what they want is law simply because it's their money being used. What sucks now is that we guys handling their social media assets get wrongful blame for 'low engagement' and 'low results'. It IS my dream to have brands finally listen to those who advise them how to navigate this new world.

1
0

Write Your Comment

New to The Drum

You will be sent a verification email. Click on the link in the email to post your comment.

Have your say

Opinion, blogs and columnists - call them what you like - this is the section where people have something to say. You might agree or you might not - whatever opinion you have make your views known in comments. Views of writers are not necessarily those of The Drum. If you would like to contribute a comment piece, email your idea to opinion@thedrum.com.