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Which Google do your customers use? Which Facebook? Which Twitter?

For years, technology providers have sold marketers on the notion of “one-to-one” marketing. “Just imagine,” they say, “being able to deliver the right message, to the right customer, at the right time to guarantee your message will get through.” And, for the most part, we bought it. Both figuratively, and more often than not, literally. Except that it has never worked. Oh, sure, we’re much better at delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time than at any time in history. But, in practice, most of the technologies, tools and toys we’ve have to play with haven’t helped us deliver on that promise.

Why not? Well, partly it’s because those technologies, tools and toys weren’t always equal to the task at hand. And partly because we as marketers weren’t ready to send messages to each customer on a personalized level. But the former is no longer true.

What do I mean? Well, as you’ve probably heard, Google has integrated “social information” into its search results pages, including more information from your friends and your favorite social networks. In many ways, Google had no choice. While very few people think of Facebook or Twitter as “search engines,” little doubt exists that many consumers increasingly turn to their social networks to find the information that matters to them.

While you might use Google for local movie theaters and showtimes, would you ask it which movie to see? Or do you trust your friends on Facebook more? Would you query Google about a job candidate’s merits—or would you rather ask your LinkedIn network?

The data shows Google continues to dominate search share. But these numbers fail to account for the types of searches above that are going to neither Google, nor Bing, nor Yahoo. When measuring search share, where is Twitter? LinkedIn? Facebook?

Suddenly, the tech to talk to consumers on a truly one-to-one basis exists.

Which brings us to the second half of our “one-to-one” challenge above. As Steve Rubel has said, there isn’t just one Facebook. There are 500 million of them. And there are even more Googles than that.

It would be easy to worry that you’re going to have to deliver a single, targeted message to as many potential customers as exist on Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and on, and on, and on…

After all, who is prepared to deliver 500 million-plus distinct messages on Facebook? And perhaps a billion more on Google? Hell, even if you only wanted to talk to 1% of those folks, could you deliver millions of messages?

Actually, as scary as this may seem, it’s more a “glass half-full” situation than a problem. Because you don’t want to talk to each of “the different Facebooks” that exists. Or even a healthy chunk of them. The skills search engine marketers and direct marketers before them have learned—segmentation, channel management, copy testing—serve just as well in the social sphere as anywhere else online.

Sure, social is different because, as I’ve said many times before, social is people. And the differences among people is finding its way into search as well as social media. But, the best marketers have been talking to people all along. And if you’re not, isn’t it time you did?

Tim Peter

Tim Peter built his first website in 1995 and loves that he still gets to do that every day. Tim has spent almost two decades figuring out where customers are, how they interact with brands online, and delivering those customers to his clients’ front door. These efforts have generated billions of dollars in revenue and reduced costs.

Tim works with client organizations to build effective teams focused on converting browsers to buyers and building their brand and business. He helps those companies discover how marketing, technology, and analytics tie together to drive business results. He doesn't get excited because of the toys or tech. He gets excited because of what it all means for the bottom line.

An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. He is a member of the Search Engine Marketers Professional Organization (SEMPO), HSMAI, and the Digital Analytics Association.

Tim currently serves as Senior Advisor at SoloSegment, a marketing technology company that uses machine learning and natural language processing to improve engagement and conversion for large enterprise, B2B companies.

Tim Peter’s recent client work covers a wide range of digital marketing activities including developing digital and mobile marketing strategies, creating digital product roadmaps, assessing organizational capabilities, and conducting vendor evaluations for diverse clients including major hospitality companies, real estate brands, SaaS providers, and marketing agencies.

Prior to launching Tim Peter & Associates, LLC, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in early 2011, he worked with the world’s largest hotel franchisor, the world’s premier independent luxury hotel representation firm, and a major financial services firm, developing various award-winning products and services for his customers. Tim can be reached at or by phone at 201-305-0055.

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