This was originally posted in a private space for the SAP marketing community.
Marketing professionals don't have difficulty "getting" Social Media. They are apt to play on Facebook, network on LinkedIn, read and possibly write on personal blogs and Wikipedia. If someone wants to engross themselves with the tools, they can as consumers. And there is far too much blogged about what it means for their business than most have time for. But when it comes time for a Director of Product Marketing to pitch for budget on a Social Media, things may grind to a halt.
The reason is we are still developing the language, let alone the numbers, around Social Media as a marketing investment. David Meerman Scott notes correctly that Viral Marketing is not about sales leads. Same for Social Media.
The hardest part of adapting your marketing thinking is that the predominant pattern in Web 2.0 is sharing control to create value. You see it in communities like Wikipedia or YouTube. You see it in business models like Open Source. You see it when the conversations around your brand happen without you. But there is no buy vs. build equation for deciding to share control. The decision to put intellectual property into the commons does not yet have tools to forecast return.
We think we have marketing down to a science. And we use the language of war -- campaigns that divide targets for capture. Lead generation often comes with guarantees. The ROI of a campaign is supposedly known in advance.
But I'll wager that the campaigns that have the best known returns are
the ones your audience is most sensitized against. If not simply viewed
as spam. And those campaigns are done at the greatest distance from the
customer, if not increasing it.
The Edleman Trust Barometer tells us that in six out of ten countries surveyed, individuals trust their peers to inform decisions more than institutions. And half believe the word of a rank and file employee over a CEO. (yes, I've quoted this twice on this blog) We've been erroding trust, not just in the private sector. And with the NetGens entering their second year into the workforce, they bring even stronger attitudes about social influence.
They say you can't manage what you can't measure. I'd suggest you can measure social marketing, but with less leading indicators. Stop thinking about the number of impressions, but who you impress and more importantly who they impress. Referrals and references are a mainstay of enterprise software, but you need to find new ways to engage and attribute them to return. How can influence a decision maker without witholding information from them and a wider market? What processes can you redesign by making them more transparent and participatory? How can you foster deeper relationships on mutual trust that lead to others?