Relational Marketing Is the Future

I'm currently enjoying a book entitled Now is Gone by Geoff Livingston. In this book, Livingston articulately brings to life much of what has been in my head as of late--and something I've been talking about with my colleagues as well. Particularly: I've been thinking that social media marketing is the future of marketing--or as I called it in the title: relational marketing. I know I could get in some hot water for such a dogmatic claim; but hear me out. By "Social media" I mean more than simply the tools of social media such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc. Rather, I am referring to something similar to Livingston's definition:
"Social media...is the democratization and socialization of information as well as the tools to facilitate online conversations. To put it another way, it is the shift from one-way to two-way conversations."
Marketing has long been seen as information distribution to your target audiences. We gather info, we (gently) shove it down the customer's throat, and then we ask them to say thank you and hope they want seconds. I understand that's a bit hyperbolic; but it does have some truth in it. For better or worse (I happen to think for better), that way of marketing is quickly dying. Livingston speaks to this by distinguishing "audiences" from "communities." It may sound like he's splitting hairs; but it actually constitutes an entire paradigm shift. Picture the last movie you saw in the theater (hopefully it wasn't Vantage Point). As part of the audience, what did you do? You watched and listened; you didn't interact--and hopefully you didn't talk. Your opinion had no bearing on the movie's content as the movie was already edited and produced. Accordingly, you're only job was to take it all in and perhaps afterwards give it two thumbs up or down. What do communities do? They engage in dialogue. People in community shape one another. Their opinions and ideas influence those of the others around them. To return to the movie analogy; as an audience member you have no say over the finished product. However, as part of the community who made the movie, you had complete say. You influenced, shaped and created the movie (and hopefully, it wasn't Vantage Point). Marketers no longer have the option of treating people like audiences because people no longer have to sit around and respectfully listen to their message. People have choices. With the democratization and socialization of information, why would I accept a final product that doesn't work for me when I can go elsewhere and help build one? Why would I continue to watch TV commercials when I have TiVo? Why would I stay on your web site if I don't like it? Why would I buy your product when I know there are 10 other better options for less money? Why would I listen to a canned message when I can speak directly with the creator? As Livingston points out, marketers no longer have the option of not engaging in community dialogue. Dialogue is happening whether we like it or not. We can either close our eyes hope they're saying good things about our products & company; or we can help shape the conversation through our participation--and in turn be shaped ourselves.
Josh Chambers

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Posted in Article Category: #Strategy
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