Note: This blog was written for the inaugural issue of Social Media Marketing Magazine and was originally posted at http://bit.ly/smm169
Too much of what is being written about social media marketing (SMM) these days still has the ring of futurism. Wake up—the SMM era is already here! Companies are increasing their SMM budgets today, and their sales are being driven by customer-to-customer buzz at this very moment.
Much of the current focus on SMM by companies, as well as the business press, is about 1) designing marketing and PR to affect the C2C buzz, 2) monitoring how much and what is being communicated about their products and services, and 3) influencing the conversations about their products and services online. These direct efforts to create, monitor, and influence the online narrative of a company and its products will continue to be the focus of SMM strategy for most organizations.
However, SMM will also have a huge impact on marketing research and innovation in organizations. It’s no secret that many of the traditional marketing research tools (focus groups, surveys, brainstorming, and phone interviews) are woefully ineffective at uncovering the deep knowledge of customers and users that organizations today seek to enhance innovation.
More effective research methods, such as ethnography or individual interviews, have become more widely used but are viewed as excessively expensive or time consuming. SMM will change these economics. For example, online ethnography is already a growing area of study by anthropologists and marketers alike, and individuals are being engaged one-on-one synchronously, using Internet tools. These evolving online qualitative methods will provide better user insight and information to drive innovation.
As I have spent the majority of my career in service and product innovation, I may perhaps be biased, but I believe that ultimately the impact of SMM on innovation is likely to prove even more important than the much more publicized effect on how companies communicate with their target audiences.
Through the use of SMM, organizations will never have to drive innovation alone. Key users and customers will always be co-pilots. The nature of user involvement will vary, but it will be ubiquitous. Sometimes, product innovation will be driven through crowdsourcing. Sometimes, only “lead users” will have a seat in the cockpit. And at other times, users will be selected by criteria specific to a product. But users will be involved in the innovation. Actually, the difference between user innovation and simple user outreach is not always clear: users involved in innovation become engaged customers.
Certainly it will prove exciting to watch the evolution of SMM. And I look forward to monitoring the changing world of marketing.
To view the full inaugural issue of SMM Magazine go to http://www.smmmagazine.com/