What will be social media’s tipping point?

Malcom Gladwell defines a tipping point as a sociological term, “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point. Tipping points are “the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable.” Joe Marchese said back in October that:

 As advertisers and agencies rely ever increasingly on individuals to pass along their marketing message, the advertising and marketing messages themselves must now achieve their own tipping points within the social media communities in order for marketing and advertising to continue to be an effective tool for brand advertisers.

Ok I get that. Perhaps advertisers and marketers have reached the tipping point in regards to how they are reaching the users of social networks, but ultimately I think they haven’t reached that point. I think the conversations that abound right now are of a substance that says, this is the conversation, do you know how to join it? Do you know how to leverage it? Are you aware of how it works? Do you get that the conversation does not start with your brand, it starts with the people that dig your brand?

As a marketer, you need to listen before you speak.

The answer for me is that no, marketers, and branders do not completely “Get it”. Thus the need for the social media evangelists, the brand evangelists, and the Seth Godins of the world to dumb it down for us and for them.  Why do they have to dumb it down? Because we, they, us, just cannot completely wrap our hands, our arms, our minds, arounud the monolithic beast that is the social networking phenomenon. There are a lot of moving parts. And I find myself daily explaining “it” to n00bs and people who actually know more than they let on.

For a marketer using social newtorks, a tipping point could be construed as a viral effect or a WOMM effect in which they can virtually sit back and watch the machine roll. To them, it means they have done their job, or so they think. To truly engage the user and the customer to use them as their champions is to create a conversation that breeds success beyond their wildest dreams. Because they have created buy-in on an exponential level.

Problem is, it has not happened often enough. And though it can be duplicated, and replicated, the moving parts, the variables, and the uncertainty of a social networks eco-system dictate that it will change and evolve and be ruled by the members and factors that you can never account for and not the marketers. But what happens AFTER a tipping point for a marketer in a social network setting? What is the life expectancy of the product, the user, the marketer, and the network? Can anyone provide me a case study for the “aftermath” of a tipping point for the aformentioned in a social network setting?

Has it happened yet? I doubt it. What’s intriguing is that in Geoff Livingston’s   blog in which he has a weekly round up called Blogs of fire, author Marinel Mones linked to Nick O’Neill of Social Times in which he states that social networking sites will die in two years. Does that mean SN’s will have flamed out, reached their tipping points and then crash and burned? Do we just move on? I dare to say we don’t and that saying something as ambitious as SN’s will die in 2 years is more of an attempt to grab some eyeballs than anything else. What do you think? I believe I asked a number of people in the 20 million strong soon to be dead  in 2 years Linkedin network where they thought social media and networks would be in 5 years and the answers were varied and deep and thoughtfull and none approached the answer of Nick O’Neill.

Do I think Social Networks will approach some type of tipping point? Yes, we will reach  some type of saturation point, but I don’t think we have yet, much to the consternation of Daniel Riveong, but much has changed in the 2 years since he wrote that it had already started to happen.

The saturation point might just be a case or situation where out personal saturation point will be determined by what we can manage and not neccessarily a case of too many choices. But…invariably our choices are determined by our friends, our niches, our desires, and huh? Marketers? and so it has now come full circle…

In conclusion I pull an excerpt from the NY Times in which Duncan Watts writes about culture, Hollywood and Justin Timberlake. Check out the sublte social networking undertone to this statement.

The common-sense view, however, makes a big assumption: that when people make decisions about what they like, they do so independently of one another. But people almost never make decisions independently — in part because the world abounds with so many choices that we have little hope of ever finding what we want on our own; in part because we are never really sure what we want anyway; and in part because what we often want is not so much to experience the “best” of everything as it is to experience the same things as other people and thereby also experience the benefits of sharing.

So 2 questions that I will continue to explore:

What is social medias tipping point?

and..

What is our own personal saturation level for social media?

 

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Customer Acquisition in Social Media Marketing

After reading this entry in Top Rank Blog about tips for marketing with social media, something crossed my mind. Though there were some great tips on things that people can do to use the power of social meda to bolster marketing, I was not seeing THE sure fire way. It was gray. I think it’s still gray, and I’ll tell you why.

Lets take for example Client A. Client A wants to use social media, has heard about social media or at least has heard about blogs for example, and wants to use it to drive traffic to his or her sites, increase sales and or use it for branding purposes. That seems to be a safe assumption for most companies.

Well those are all well and good, but first things first. Where does the client go? You have consultants running around out there claiming to know how to do it, but by the looks of the tips. I saw nothing that was a “business process”. I saw a here try this, or this works, or a you might want to try this or I have seen that…..Get the point? A client needs to know what are you going to do, how are you going to do it, how long is it going to take, and what will I get from your efforts, amongst other things.

The problem is, with social media, though you can measure traffic to a certain degree, the “process” or the initiation of a social media campaign is not an overnight phenomenon. there are some instances of it occurring from a viral marketing standpoint but It’s a process that needs to be cultivated. The issue that most clients have with this business model is that they don’t have time to nurture their presence in social networks. Their businesses require immmediate results and returns.

Businesses know this and need to know this: 1) Here is my customer I know what it takes to acquire this customer via this form of advertising, sales and marketing and channel. 2) Here is my customer, what is it going to cost me to acquire that customer through social media? And what are the steps that you are going to take and what are they going to cost me for you to achieve that? After you first explain to me what social media is…

After they ask you “Is it like Myspace”? 

If you the social media marketer come to me and say, “We’re going to create a Facebook group for you, A couple of blogs, maybe a bbs, a couple of microsites, and we’re also going to Twitter and use Stumbleupon as well as a handful of others.” I’m first going to say, “Huh?  and then “ok, what is that going to do”? And you’ll say, “We’re branding you, and we’re driving traffic to these sites and pages and they’re finding out more about you”!.  To which I will say, “Thats great, how many sales can I expect? What kind of conversion rates can I expect from social media???” At that point I better get a really good answer or another plan that perhaps uses a widget or two that is placed in strategic social media sites that can drive traffic and convert sales.

 That’s the real question, or rather one of the many questions. Here they are and you might want to use them as you are approached by social media marketers or companies who will claim to know what they are doing.

  • What is your social media plan?
  • Do I need sales, leads or traffic
  • What types of social media do you plan to use and why those? and why not these?
  • What will be the upfront costs? What ongoing costs can I expect?
  • What will be the costs of customer acquisition? A cost per acquisition model certainly applies here!
  • How long will it take to roll this plan out
  • What kinds of deliverables can I expect and when
  • What is your track record
  • Have you ever worked with this type of product or my type of company before?
  • How successful have you been
  • What will it take to manage it on my own
  • Lets focus on some deliverables
  • Lets set some benchmarks with incentives
  • What is your plan to integrate this social media plan with our other marketing plans
  • What if you fail
  • What guarantees do I have
  • References

The key here is alot of agencies are starting to add social media as it’s own division within their companies. Though there are very few companies and agencies who have done it right over a sustained period of time, because of the “new-ness” of it all. It’s up to you to figure out who can deliver what, and in what time frame. The last thing you need is for someone or some company to experiment with your brand as they muddle their way through figuring out just what works and what doesn’t work with social media marketing.

Lastly what companies and businesses and people need to realize is that social media marketing is a moving target. It’s changing and morphing into something different every day. The reason is, marketers are figuring out new and unique ways to leverage the media to the advantage of the client. Some are proven, some are loopholes, some are brainstorms and some are just plain strokes of genius. Though you still need a concrete strategy as you go forward. It doesn’t hurt to have someone who is willing to take a chance or try something different on your behalf. Keep that in mind as you work your way down the bulleted list. The first of many steps will be finding someone who knows social media marketing and actually has a business model wrapped around social media marketing. As it is a moving target, I’m sure that there are some differring opinons on this. What do you think?