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Are you ahead of your social media customers?

I learned quite some ago to stop apologizing for my approach to this time of year. I celebrate Christmas because I am a Christian. If I offend you by saying “Merry Christmas!” that’s on you, not me. So why am I talking about one of the things you never speak of in a business context (along with politics which is much more uncomfortable these days than religion is by far)? Well, I need to give you a quick back story. Bear with me because this will lead to an observation or two about social media.

Here’s the background. I had a friend explain his faith walk to me this way. He said he was running through life doing what he felt was right and then saying to God, “Bless that!” It took him quite some time to see that what he had left behind him was considerable wreckage and mayhem. All the while he thought he was doing the right thing. So what went so wrong? He simply was running without even knowing just how incapable of running he actually was. After he slowed down, checked his priorities and put things in the proper order, slowly his life came together. He started paying attention to what he was doing rather than just doing something for the sake of doing it.

christmas 2007
Photo credit: paparutzi

So where in the world are you going here, Frank? (If you have made it this far I suspect that question has crossed your mind and that’s cool.) Well, I am drawing a direct parallel between how my friend approached something as important to him as his faith and how it looks an awful lot like how we approach social media as marketers.

Whoa, wait a minute here. That’s quite a leap isn’t it? Sure it is. Now let’s move on.

Recent studies have shown that while marketers are flocking to social networks like Facebook and Twitter to hawk their wares and services they may be going there without having the blessings of a pretty important party; their customers.

Look at these findings that were reported by eMarketer a short while back. It shows that marketers seem to be flocking to social outlets as if the rest of the world was already there and it seems that in most cases they simply are not.

Now granted there could be some explanation here in that the percentage of marketers on a certain network are there because their audience is despite the lower adoption rates for those social outlets. I wish I could feel confident that is true because I am more likely to think that many marketers are where they are because it is cool, fashionable and “expected.” This is their version of what friend did with his “Bless that!’ routine. Marketers are often going to a social network assuming that “everyone” is there and it will make sense for them to be there too.

In some cases they may be right, but in many others they would be flat out wrong. Let’s just say, a little research can go a long way, so it would be best to do that research before doing a cannonball into the deep end, so to speak.

So once marketers are somewhere, what is it that they want to do? They want to promote their stuff! In this brave new world of social media there are now many more opportunities to get in front of their audience. The trouble is that pretty large percentages (at least according to this study) of people who are on these social networks don’t want to hear from you unless they are following you (and even those numbers are not that impressive).

Once again it looks like the marketing world has run off following the glow of social media while their customers have, in many cases, stopped to assess what they like and don’t like.

Here is my suggestion (or dare I say answer) to this dilemma that seems to be running through the veins of Internet marketers these days. Take the time to see exactly WHERE your customers are and then find out exactly HOW they want to hear from you. It is at this point that the assuming stops and the business begins.

Where are you on this scale? Do you run ahead and yell back to your customers “Buy that!” or are you willing to slow down to be guided to a solution that is both reasonable and effective? Based on the experience my friend had regarding his relationship with God.. well, let’s just say he goes a little slower today, but he is content. What about you and your marketing efforts?

Oh, and by the way, Merry Christmas.

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