Social Media Gives Companies a New and Exciting Way to Make the Same Boring Marketing Mistakes

by Mack Collier

There’s a scene in the movie Liar Liar where the movie’s main character (a lawyer played by Jim Carrey who’s been ‘cursed’ with an inability to tell a lie) is given the phone by his secretary and told that one of his clients has “knocked over another ATM, this time at knife-point.  He needs your legal advice.”

Carrey’s character grabs the phone and offers this advice: Stop breaking the law, ASSHOLE!

Recently I saw this quote from an emarketer article: “Marketers are abuzz over “Big Data” for its promise to deliver a more complete understanding of each customer, who can then be targeted with advertising tailored exactly to the individual.”

And this quote from P&G’s Head of Global Marketing on finding the ROI of Social Media: “What will revolutionize the industry, what we’re working on an industry basis, is to define EGRPs [electronic gross rating point, a measure of audience reach]. You can look at what an impression from Google, or Facebook or Twitter is actually worth.”

This is the exact problem with how 99% of companies are using and viewing Social Media: As a new channel to more effectively market to its customers.

Are you serious?

Let’s take a step back and remember what Social Media is: Tools that allow us to create and exchange digital content.  The vast majority of us use Social Media as personal communication tools.

Companies, do you not realize the significance of this?  For decades, you’ve been struggling with how to better understand your customers.  The problem has always been, how do you really know what customers think about you, your products, and who they are?  What they want, etc.  The only options available to you were highly inefficient.  Surveys, focus-groups, and other forms of feedback.  At best it can give you a small sampling of your customer base, but connecting with individual customers just doesn’t scale.

Yet with Social Media, suddenly you DO have a way to better understand your customers.  Because all the interactions they were having before in an offline setting (where you had almost no access to them) have moved online.  Now you can see what your customers are saying to each other, and about you and your products!  What’s better, you now have a way to directly connect with them and they with you!

And your key takeaway from this fundamental change in how we humans connect with each other is that you see this as a great opportunity to turn your customers into digital marketing channels?!?

Companies if you want to be successful at utilizing Social Media, here’s the most important lesson I can give you: Learn how your customers are using Social Media and for what reasons, and then work within that framework.

Recall Sunday’s post on X-Box’s Twitter account hitting 1,000,000 tweets.  X-Box was smart enough to realize that its customers are on Twitter, and complaining about the problems they are having with the console.  So instead of trying to leverage Twitter as a channel to shoot them marketing messages, the brand instead leverages Twitter as a channel to provide individualized customer service.  The customer benefits from getting personalized attention and help with their problems.  The brand benefits by deflecting calls away from its CS call centers.

This is what we call in the real-world a ‘win-win’.  But it happened because X-Box saw how their customers were using Twitter, then worked with that behavior, not against it.

Would it be awesome if your customers put aside how they want to use Social Media and instead agreed to let you use them to broadcast your marketing messages via their Social Media accounts?  Of course it would.  Right after you teach your pet unicorn how to pee rainbows, you can get to work on that.

For now, we live in a world where we ALL act in our own best interests.  That’s just as true for your customers as it is for you the company.  If you can use Social Media as a way to provide value to your customers, then you will be acting in THEIR best interests.

And you’ll get their business.  Try it and see.  Oh and if you need some social media training to get started, call me.

Derek Overbey March 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm


Another great post but I think you’ve outdone yourself this go around. Anytime you can insert the line “Right after you teach your pet unicorn how to pee rainbows” you know it’s a classic!


Mack Collier March 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Thanks Derek, no rest for the wicked, I guess 😉

Christina Pappas March 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm

This just makes me think of mobile advertising on Facebook. From what I am reading, the sides are split on whether this is considered intrusive or relevant & welcome. For me personally, I love the idea of brands getting to know me and what I like and even predicting what I am going to do next so that I am seeing the most relevant messages – but at what cost. The keyword here is the ‘idea’ of it. I am not sold on them actually doing it. I read that same article and for me, I was just thinking ‘why is it so hard for marketers to track return?’ Why are we still wondering what the return is on our marketing efforts? And why are we struggling so much with using this data intelligently to do more of the things that work?

Mack Collier March 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Christina I fear the big missed opportunity is that instead of looking at the data and trying to use it to better understand their customers, most companies look at the data and think ‘how can we use this to our marketing advantage?’

Can the data improve marketing? Sure it can, but what a short-sighted view to assume that’s all or even the most important benefit.

Davina K. Brewer March 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I thought unicorns shat rainbows and farted glitter?

Anyway… a big danger I see is that the average small business is already following, copying the big guys, making these same mistakes. If they see a F500 doing nothing but ‘buy our stuff’ tweets and deleting/ignoring negative FB comments, they think they should do it too; they hire ‘SM’ firms to automate and regurgitate their same old, tired messages – and then wonder why it doesn’t work.

There is tremendous opportunity here that’s being ignored, starting with listening. I shared a couple posts the other day both that highlighted social fails, both that mentioned campaigns that were pulled – after the fact. Had these brands and marketers done a little research, put in a little face or keyboard time with their target audience (an audience that is social and willing to be a ‘free’ online focus group) before, they wouldn’t have wasted so much time and money after.

It is about you and your interests. It is about me and mine. Brands need to listen, learn, help me help.. me; that starts w/ communicating with me, not shilling at me. FWIW.

Jacquie Chakirelis March 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Amen Mack! I am experiencing too many marketing directors and c-suites focused on using social media as a push channel and asking for reports that show day to day ROI. Seriously!

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