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Social Media Versus The Traditionalists

by David Brock on February 28th, 2013

I was reading a very good post at OpenView Labs site, Can Social Prospecting Make Cold Calling Irrelevant.  It’s very good and you should be sure to read it.  But it got me thinking, Social Media changes so much.  It provides rich new tools we can leverage, the new communities we can engage, and the new possibilities to change the way we work.  Yet we apply those capabilities with the same old mindset that we have applied the traditional, old school tools.  I think the discussion and the focus puts the emphasis on the wrong things.

First, we are still thinking in an inside-out approach.  “How do we want to prospect?”  “How do we want to reach out and engage our customers?”  “How do we use social media to reach our prospects and customers?”  “What are the most efficient ways for us to communicate?”  And too many default to Social Media because of the following, “What are the cheapest ways to reach our prospects?”  So while we are using new technologies, our application of those technologies is still wrong–and will probably produce the same results, though in far greater volume and at far greater speed.  Stated differently, “we can piss more people off, faster.”

It’s always been about the customer.  Our thinking on engaging the customer has to be driven by their preferences.  It has to be outside-in.  How do they want to be engaged?  What communication channels do they prefer?  How do they want to learn and connect?  Once we know these, then we design our engagement and communications processes from the customer in.  Do they prefer social media?  Which social media channels?  Which communities?  What other channels do they prefer?  We can’t choose the tools and methods of reaching our customers until we know the answers to what the customers want.

Second, so much of the Social Media versus Old School discussion is positioned as just that–we do one or the other.  Some would argue that you have to be all in on social media or you just aren’t with it.  It kind of reminds me of the old adage, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, pretty much every problem begins to look like a nail.”  Only we have a brand new shiny hammer.

In reality, social media and social technologies enrich our tool kit and provide more ways of reaching and engaging our customers.  But we shouldn’t be limiting ourselves to just those tools.  Certainly, we will shift the balance of which tools we use.  Social technologies may be the “heavy lifting” tools we most utilize, but we limit ourselves by focusing exclusively on those.  Remember, it’s all about the customer–they have different preferences and if we want to reach and engage them, we have to use those channels.  Not every problem is best solved by social technologies.  A good friend, Jim Keenan, is a power user of social technologies.  I learn a lot from him.  But lately, we’ve gone “old school,” in our communications.  Dare I say, we are using the telephone and actually talking to each other!  It turns out, for the things we needed to communicate with each other about, the old fashioned telephone was the most effective and efficient way of communicating.

Third, we need to think multi-channel, multi-touch.  There’s a lot of research-both old school and new, indicating that to create lasting impressions, whether it’s building a brand, building trust, or delivering impactful messages; that people respond best through multi-channels and multi-touch.  So all our engagement and communications strategies need to embrace this.  It’s not just which social technologies we use, but which mix of tools we use to maximize the impact we have on customers and prospects.

So, the discussion of old school versus new, either-or doesn’t have a lot of meaning.  In reality , we have a rich array of tools, we have multiple paths, we have different means to engage and impact our customers.  To be effective, we must leverage many simultaneously–and those choices need to be driven by how our customers want to be engaged, not how we want to engage them.

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