Every now and then I hear marketing guys talk about social media as another channel to advertise. I feel like marketing, sales, development, and other part of any organization’s value chain are just plain missing the point.
In a world where people have access to so much content, how will blasting out content indiscriminately get you what you want to get? Television advertisers know this really well, in their business model they have to create ads that resonate with their potential consumers in less than 30 seconds. How do you define success of such campaigns? I would doubt that a lot of people get convinced to buy J’Adore perfume for their wives or significant other just because they saw Charlize Theron strutting in the commercial.
In today’s world of social media I posit that the “word of mouth” seal of approval gets more attention than a traditional advert. This is typically true when you are purchasing big ticket items, although some small ticket items are gradually coming into the fold thanks to Amazon, Apple and other application marketplaces. I call the “word of mouth” seal of approval to what Robert Cialdini calls social proof. Seeing other “people like me” that have experienced a similar problem and the product they purchase solved that problem for them, gives me assurance that I am buying something that is worthwhile to me.
Scenario: The case of me and people like me
Prior to the internet, the social network “of people like me” represented the people I knew or who were in my immediate vicinity. In this case due to personal relations and biases, I would take feedback with a grain of salt and unless I knew that person really empathized with my situation. With social media and other venues I now have access to collective mind share that I did not have access to. Now I understand this is not like self diagnosing an illness on the internet, but if there are people that are passionate about a piece of technology and write about it, then it is worth considering. Now obviously there will be contributors bringing in their respective biases but you have to realize how much influence such voices will have on your decision. When buying expensive gadgets or workout equipement online, I depend on the reviews that other people have provided. Obviously I have to have my filter on, but these days, I am making decisions based on experiences other people have had prior to buying a product. These people that I am being influenced by are people that I have no direction connection to but their seal of approval is important to me because they share my problem (primarily because I do not want to have buyers remorse after my expensive purchase). But when I am scouring for “Social proof” I don’t look at the stream of announcements a company makes about their products (i.e. in their tweets, facebook posts etc.) . What I look for are the interactions they are having with their community members and the interactions between the community members themselves (Western Digital, Apple, Google forums are great examples of this).
Just like Oscar Wilde states ” Experience is the name what people give to their mistakes”, there are hits and misses in taking a stranger’s opinion. But that does not mean one has to regress into their shell and become a hermit (this is shaped by the utility derived by the purchase as well). In my case I have now developed a sense of whether or not the feedback is genuine i.e. as in the case of Amazon reviews (BTW there are companies now that make sure that reviews posted are genuine). Now one could argue that what if the company is paying people to write great reviews about their product so that more people purchase it. This again is not a new thing. Have you seen TV informercials lately? Companies that employ such tricks and tricksters are eventually found out and are shamed publicly. That in it self, in most cases acts as a disincentive to such acts.
In this brave new world, where more people are making decisions based on others experience for all kinds of purchase decisions, social media just amplifies that voice of “people like me”