Moving Marketing From Your Eyes To Your Hands

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I have a personal gripe with anyone who questions what Social Media can do for their business.

We toss around the words "Social Media" as if it’s like saying, "I need a 30-second spot." It’s a mistake. We keep on making it, and things have to start changing soon before it becomes a hollow term (or worse, a fad). Unlike other media channels, Social Media is many different types of content (text, images, audio and video) with many different types of platforms and channels on which the content plays out (Blogging, video sharing sites, virtual worlds, Podcasting, micro-Blogging, online social networks, photo sharing, mobile, widgets, apps, etc…). It’s not push marketing and it’s not pull marketing either, it’s more of a group expression (to steal a concept that Clay Shirky discusses in his outstanding, best-selling business book, Here Comes Everybody) where a concept can be explored, shared, posted elsewhere, mashed-up, expanded upon or completely re-invented.

Sounds confusing? It is.

One person’s Twitter feed is another person’s spam pit. What works for a brand in Facebook might crash and burn on YouTube. Some people are still experiencing great ROI from their current efforts in Second Life, and while many are quick to call MySpace as dead as Friendster, there are many musicians, filmmakers, authors and artists who still have a healthy and robust community (that keeps on growing) on MySpace with no plans of slowing down.

Social Media isn’t a fad, but big brands can make it look like it is.

We tend to measure the success of Social Media using traditional mass media metrics (audience size, amount of advertising revenue, etc…). We’re getting it all wrong. Social Media is not about advertising… it’s about Marketing. Authentic Marketing. Ethical Marketing. Social Media is about creating engagement with consumers and getting those that are uber-excited about your brand to connect even closer (to the brand and other denizens or evangelists). In essence, we’re mining for the quality over quantity of people who can best connect to our brands, but we continually stumble into the mass media metrics trap.

Will big brands only care when Facebook has 500 million users?

Facebook recently surpassed 400 million users, and it’s somewhat humorous (and a little bit tragic) to think that brands and marketers usually only care about a channel or opportunity when the masses are there (as if 10 million is paltry). The smarter brands are slowly weaning themselves off of this very traditional metric and are starting to look at who they are connected and not how many people they are connected to.

So, what’s the big deal?

The old Web and traditional mass media were always about "eyes" – how many people were looking at the content (remember in the early days of the Web, how excited we all got over the amount "eyeballs" and "stickiness" our websites had?) Social Media changes the body parts from "eyes" to "hands". What are people doing with this content? What are they creating with it? How are they sharing it? How are they re-inventing and creating their own pieces of content around it?

It’s a big deal. It’s a big change.

Do your own brand analysis and figure out how much of your content, media and marketing can people simply look at with their eyes versus their ability to use their own two hands to really do stuff with it (and that includes very simple stuff like writing a short review)?

It’s a great question to ask, and I wonder how many times it has been asked in the boardrooms across this great, big world?


  1. Well-written article.
    I was told that part of an additional job function (starting in a week’s time) requires me to handlle Online Marketing for the company’s corporate site. Online Marketing isn’t really my forte but for the sake of learning new things, I’d like to dabble on that. Do you have any great books to recommend that would make an impact within the first couple of months?

  2. Mitch, you’re right, we have to stop talking about social media in absolutes. Twitter is not YouTube is not a wiki is not Digg etc. Logically, then, the same strategies and techniques don’t work across the spectrum, even for the same organization with the same goals.
    And at the risk of sounding trite, a good first step would be to fight hard against the use of social media as a singular noun. In talking with clients, I’ve found it’s an excellent way to illustrate the very points you raise in first part of this post.
    Social media ‘isn’t’ anything, social media are a number of things. Sure, maybe it seems like simple grammatical nitpickery but I think getting your head around that point makes it a lot easier to understand how the various tools, channels and services can be integrated with other marketing efforts.

  3. Hey Mitch, you hit on a bunch of great points here. What so many don’t understand about the new landscape is that in the 21st century economy how you market your ideas, , build your business model, develop your brand, generate revenue and then “measure” this success is going to be radically different than how it has been done in the past. If businesses just wait until “it’s been proven” to jump on board as you mentioned with your FB example, businesses are going to lose every time.
    You have to get in there (now, hell 3/4 years ago for that matter) and begin experimenting with the new tools and begin developing new processes that work for what YOU are doing, because as you said what works on Twitter very well will crash and burn on another platform. You have to understand who you are, what your business is about, the value it has to contribute to the world and then maneuver accordingly. And then (in an environment which seems to focus on immediate gratification and doesn’t understand the business building is a marathon, not a sprint), begin working on a strategy for that will create a sustainable business.

  4. Mitch,
    Your post resonates deeply with me. I wish I could distill this kind of thinking into a liquid and slip it into some manager’s coffee ๐Ÿ™‚
    Great job.

  5. Boy que tu as le don de ramener les choses sur le plancher des vaches Mitch!
    Effectivement, je trouve qu’on s’emballe de toutes sortes de façons avec les médias sociaux et qu’on a tendance à oublier ce qu’on souhaite véritablement faire et communiquer.
    I’ve thought of it that way, but the hand thing truly exemplifies for me what social media are all about.

  6. Mitch,
    I heard you speak rcently in North Bay and as a result I am working my way through Six Pixels of Separation. I am approaching your ideas from the non-profit sector (Board of Directors) and I find it incredible how easy the fit. I have also begun following Beth Kantor’s blog at your suggestion. I am finding her ideas to be very inspiring. I have thought for awhile that many non-profits have the most unique and effective leadership models around. Our organization works very hard at being transparent so your concept of ‘radical transparency’ jumps off the page for me. It may be that shortly the non-profits will be the leaders in the applications of social media and the creation of multiple communities of interest.
    I also connect strongly to your suggestion that we are moving from ‘eyes’ to ‘hands’ in terms of the effect social media. Perhaps, not surprisingly, our organization has recently finished a rebranding and communication exercise with the Ben Ferella Group. In researching our social service organization they suggested a name change from Algonquin Child and Family Services to
    HANDS And ‘Hands’ do really describe what we do. Can’t wait to share your ideas at our next board meeting.

  7. Mitch, your article covers the issue of social media quality over quantity better than I have seen so far, as well as why social media should be important to businesses. Perhaps because we are still in an early stage with social media, many people are either not using it or are not understanding how to use it so they default to using it like advertising. Unless your advertising is off the charts unique, no one is going to want to share it or find its content of value. And, that’s not a way to create trust, which is what social media can offer, a way to develop trust with your community. Thanks for the article.

  8. The invention of the :30 spot created the potential for a significant discontinuity: had the soap companies asked for equity, they, not Paramount/Warners et al. would be producing television and movies. But that opportunity came and went.
    Today, so-called social media creates an entirely new discontinuity, because people have both the will to change, as well as the means to burn it all down.
    People are sick and tired of the status quo, thanks to literally decades of discontent at being ignored and disrespected by brands, politicians, the media, the church…virtually a who’s who of authority figures, as chronicled in excruciating detail by our friends at Yankelovich.
    Social media allows people to do an end-around on everyone who has treated them poorly. If we lived in a culture where we gave as good as we got, people would be happier, more content with the way they were governed, more trusting of the media, etc. But we’re not. We are SO pissed, our blood is boiling. Social media like Yelp and Craigslist got a foothold because people were discontent and eager to explore alternatives. And so you have a combustible environment where people don’t care if their daily newspaper goes away, or if the Catholic Church puts the once-infallible Pope into jail, or if politicians come or go.
    Perhaps I’m putting a bit too much ire and vitriol in, but as the old saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Right now there’s a lynch mob that wants to tear down institutions, some in search of social justice and others just looking for a bigger and better deal. Their selfish interests have converged into a destructive maelstrom that is splintering complex business models and strongly favors simple, highly focused interactions that can be daisychained with other simple activities. Executives ignore this groundswell (sorry, Charlene!!) at their own peril.
    – Brian dta @connectme

  9. Great Post Mitch,
    I had a meeting two days ago with a Marketing Director at a Fortune 100 company in regards to Social Media. The meeting went great as we discussed using social media to expand a new training program that they are really excited about.
    I through a number of ideas at her and she was extremely impressed with all of the possibilities. Yet the biggest problem in starting anything at this company is the ROI factor. Its like they just want to “dip their toes” to test the social media waters and until some “magical” metric is created that can truly measure social media ROI their is no way the company penny-pinchers will authorize anything.
    Got to think of the stockholders you know. Geez!

  10. Mitch – a while ago you argued we should stop talking about ‘on-line'(not saying I bought it). Doesn’t the same argument apply to ‘social media’?

  11. I understand the concept of quality vs. quantity. I do have a question about measuring the quality of the engagement. Can you simply look at the number of comments you are getting or would that be too close to looking at quantity? Is there a factor around the quality of the engagement that can be used? Is one comment or post better than another?

  12. I think some of the better Social Media monitoring tools can help you answer those questions. In short, no… I don’t think it’s the number of comments, but rather who the people are that are commenting, the value it adds to the community and how those ideas spread.

  13. The message is straight into our heads Mitch, I think it’s definitely not about the numbers now but about the sentiments of the people who actually want to engage.Our sole objective should be to make those sentiments more and more positive.

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