|SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 15: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a special event announcing a new Facebook email messaging system at the St. Regis Hotel on November 15, 2010 in San Francisco, California. Facebook will launch a new messaging system aimed at enhancing it's social media product to its 500 million users. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)|
Marketing heads at large professional organisations, by which I mean commercial law firms, accountancy firms and financial services companies, are as concerned about Social Media as anyone else - which, on the face of it, is surprising, because traditionally these outfits have relied upon a relatively discreet universe of mainly corporate clients. Their business relationships are built on face-to-face contact (not Facebook to Facebook contact) and often long histories of proven service. Nevertheless, the perception exists that Social Media is an arena in which every serious player has to be visible, as if to be invisible there would mean being invisible everywhere - an unforgivable capitulation in this age of mass communication. Just such preoccupations drive much of the current interest in Social Media: a fear of missing out, of seeming out-of-touch, rather than excitement at the arrival of a new marketing opportunity. So is the promise really there? And are the fears justified?
The first thing to remember about Social Media is its name: not Marketing Media, but Social Media. The reason sites like Facebook caught on in the first place was not because people saw an interesting new opportunity to go shopping. They saw it as a way to keep in touch with friends old and new, and to reach out to people with similar interests. Though discrete retailing of one kind or another has crept on board, most users says they don't like it. The exception here is cultural product: music, films, books and (to a lesser extent) video games. But even here - very much at the mass consumer end of things - the amount of promotion users will tolerate is limited. Any marketing that firms do attempt must be discreet, as well as useful, readable and current. Achieving all this is easier said than done.