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“I don’t spend on social because I don’t understand it.”

Someone 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

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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