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500px-As_seen_on_TV.svgSomeone recently told me that this is what her boss says every time she tries to get him to do something–anything–in social media: “I don’t spend on social because I don’t understand it.” Each time, she happily tries to explain it to him, so that he would take something–anything–away from the TV budget to try something in social. She bought him books. She was talking to me because she wants to bring me in to train the execs so that they will understand it. I told her she would be wasting her money on me, because once he understands it, he still won’t spend any money on it.

The truth is that “not understanding” is just a way people have of pushing away something new. I spend money on things I don’t understand all the time. I don’t know how my car works, I don’t understand long-term care insurance, and, honestly, I don’t even understand electricity. (I don’t know how electricity knows when to come out and how it knows when to stop.) But I spend money on all of this stuff because even though I don’t understand how any of it works, I want what it does for me.

Marketing is no different. Don’t tell me that companies buying TV commercials have any clue how a commercial is broadcast on a network or how the cable company decides which local commercials to overlay over the network commercials. Loads of companies spend money on public relations, but they have no idea what it does for them or why it does it. They spend on these things because they believe they are valuable, not because they understand them.

Right behind, “I don’t understand” is “I don’t believe.” And we sometimes think that the solution for “I don’t believe” is evangelism–just keep working on them until the do believe. Wrong. “I don’t believe” is just another way of saying “no sale.”

No matter what marketing tactic you are talking about, it’s not about understanding–or believing. It’s about being convinced of the results. It is about whether it is working. If you have a smart company, they run tests all the time of new tactics and they see which ones are working–those are the ones they spend more on.

But no company that talks about whether they believe works this way. This is faith-based marketing, not data-driven business. Marketing isn’t a religion that you need to believe in. Marketing must carry its weight and provide return on its investment, but people talking about belief are letting you know that they don’t try new things. They just want the greatest hits.

So don’t pay attention when people say they don’t believe in social media. They would believe if they thought it would work. And don’t listen to people who say they don’t understand social media. Once enough people tell them that social media works, they will spend on that, too. And they still won’t understand it.

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Mike Moran

About Mike Moran

Mike Moran has a unique blend of marketing and technology skills that he applies to raise return on investment for large marketing programs. Mike is a former IBM Distinguished Engineer and a senior strategist at Converseon, a leading social consultancy. Mike is the author of two books on digital marketing, an instructor at several leading universities, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research.

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