The Marketing and Operations Connection

Published February 06, 2009   permalink

Fundamental to the effective use of social media in marketing is getting the product experience right. This stands in marked contrast to traditional efforts that focus on getting the message right.

Listening is often the recommended starting point when engaging the Social Web for the first time. Solid advice, too, very much like walking into a party: Before announcing who you are and what you believe, social etiquette suggests getting to know a few people first. The Social Web works likes this, and so listening to what people are saying about your brand, product, service or industry segment is fundamental to the effective use of social media as a marketer.

But what happens if you don't like what you hear? With traditional media, when a focus group or consumer complaint tells you that your message is off, you change it. On the Social Web, the message is not yours in the first place, so you cannot simply "change it." Think about the Coke and Mentos videos: Coke didn't own or create them, so Coke couldn't change them. More recently, think about the "Motrin Moms" conversations: The offending spot was pulled, but the conversation--out of the control of the brand team--remained unchanged. On the Social Web, you have to shift away from control and toward participation. So, how do you participate in a negative conversation?

In the simple cases of factual errors, you can add your voice. Disclosed and transparent, being part of the conversation goes a long way. And if the problem is deeper than that? Then what? What if your product is really not as good as you'd like to think it is?

This is where social media and the Social Web are so powerful, and so useful for business, especially in a tough economy. Coming off of the Social Web is exactly the information you need to make your product better. That, and that alone, will change the conversations that are occurring. Of course, the catch here is that this goes way beyond marketing: This is realm of operations, and it is here that the fundamental difference between the use of social media versus traditional media becomes clear: Social media is driven by Operations, not Marketing. This means that, as a marketer, you need to reach out to the COO and get her on your side before making a full-on dive into the Social Web. Unless you have control over the experience your product or service is actually delivering you are playing with fire. Campfires are great on a chilly night...unless they get of control. Take the time to build a bridge to Operations. That done, your social media based marketing programs are much more likely to produce the heat you need to ignite your market instead of burning your brand.

Reader's Comments

I found the post insightful. One thing I learned was that I should generally start by listening on the social web. I can see how that would be of value. I did not understand the last paragraph. What do you mean by building a bridge to operations? Are you talking about operations within our own company? What if we are affiliate marketer then how does this work? Would you mind elaborating? Thanks, Curt Clapier

By Curt

The “bridge to operations” refers to your connection as a marketer (where you define the experience or set an expectation, aka “the message”) to your counter parts in ops, where the experience is actually delivered. It is in the delivery, not the message, that the conversations on the Social Web begin. Yes, some conversations are about the ads, but the ones that we are really interested in are the ones about the products and services themselves since these are directly active in the consideration phase of the purchase funnel. As an affiliate marketer, the connection is in what you are promising or representing through your network or as a result of interaction with it. For example, a specific benefit or other quality versus what you and/or your network is in fact delivering. The difference (especially if negative) or the similarity/alignment (especially if positive) is what will drive the conversations which in turn drive subsequent sales and network activity.

By evansdave

great post..i really liked “produce the heat you need to ignite your market instead of burning your brand.” ...very clever and very true

By Matt