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Where Brands Can Engage Customers On Twitter And Social Networks

I read Brian Solis' post "On Twitter and Social Networks, Brands Benefit from Conversations," with interest. One, because he described some recent research on people recommending products within social networks, two Brian gives insights as to the meaning of this research, and three he suggests that the social web is much greater than a company's ability to converse and interact with consumers directly.

Brian Solis suggests there are some lessons learned from the research:


- Giving people value in the content that you provide on the web is a precursor to action.

- That value drives inbound marketing and social media optimization.

- I add search engine optimization here.

- Companies should understand the eco-system of how the social web works, and that appreciation will give clarity in where a company should place content and "social objects" within social networks to be found by audiences and influencers.

- "The social web is much greater than your ability to converse and interact within it directly. Outside of empowering the community to help extend your tenets, story and value proposition, social objects can serve as your brand beacons."

It is with this last point about the ability of companies to engage that gave me pause. While it is true the resources to engage a community takes considerable effort. I think because much of the discussion about content marketing centers on the goal of promotion the opportunity for conversation is less than if a company also has engagement strategies for the other 3 P’s of Marketing; Product, Place and Price around a brand.

Big engagement marketing brands like Dell or Comcast certainly don't interact with every consumer who mentions their products or brands to do so would often interfere with consumer conversations, and often be a needless exercise. What's the point of engaging with someone who states "I turned on my Dell this morning..." or the authenticity of a vendor responding to a request for recommendations from peers.

Using sophisticated tools for social media listening and research, engagement marketing leaders do listen to most brand references on the web today. They triage brand opportunities for customer concerns, complaints, and successes. Those conversations are often not related to promotion but about Product, Place or even Price, and as such the people who engage with customers are not always in marketing or sales, but often in customer service and product development.

Yes, engagement marketing really embraces all of marketing, not just one of the four P's, Promotion, and as such by conducting engagement for the 3 P’s; Product, Price and Place; there are Promotional consequences for a company. My classic example is the story of Macromedia's engagement with its B2B customers from my corporate blogging survey 2005. As a result of answering product development questions, customers turned from ordinary customers into evangelists, and helped to promote Macromedia as a result of those non-promotional interactions.

This is the crux of my constructive critique of content marketing; by focuses on only a part of the marketing concept, Promotion, we miss out on the opportunity to gain promotional benefits and brand building efforts from engaging consumers over matters of Place, Price and Product.

If I asked you, do engagement practices conducted by Dell, Ford, GM and Comcast that concentrate on non-promotional goals work? I think the cry in the social media community would be absolutely yes. Then why is it that the leaders in the community don't mention this connection between engagement for Product, Price and Place for Promotion? To me it’s about the budget and responsibility of the buyers for content marketing; if marketers are solely focused on Promotion then that's what they want to buy. But as any marketer knows marketing is not just about Promotion, to make the brand value customers want you also have to think about Product, Price and Place.

Brian makes the point it is not possible to engage with customers in all of their conversations, again, you don’t want to hear from a vendor when seeking a recommendation from a peer. But you do want to hear from a vendor when you have issues with Product, Price or Place, this is where engagement marketing excels, by extending beyond the confines of Promotion, companies can engage in brand building conversations, resolve customer service issues and develop their product.

What Brian states is true if we look at marketing through the lens of Promotion. But I'd suggest that if we extend marketing goals beyond promotion to the other 3 P's not only will you succeed in using social media for those goals, but also gain promotional consequences as a result.

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