Marketer Meets Social User: Who Runs Your Social Media?

by Ken Mueller on January 23, 2014 · 4 comments

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When it comes to the worlds of social media and digital marketing, there are so many different perspectives and opinions on how it should be done. In fact, as I travel through both online and offline marketing circles, I often feel like I’m too much of a contrarian. Maybe it’s the grumpy old man in  me, but I just don’t like the approaches of a lot of people.

That said, it’s awfully refreshing when I meet someone who shares my perspectives pretty much across the board. It’s even more refreshing when it’s someone who is smart and doing good things in the field. Just yesterday I had the chance to catch up with my friend, Hessie Jones of ArCompany, a one-year old social media startup, and while we hadn’t talked in close to a year, it was great to share ideas.

One of the things we discussed was the state of the social space, particularly in regard to marketing, as it has evolved over the past few years. When I first got into this business, social media was very young, and marketers will still getting a handle on things. As we chatted, we agreed that one of the problems in the social space is the mindset that businesses bring to it. 

For some, they don’t understand what it is, so they reach out to those who they think know it: young people. The thinking is that while social is like a second language for most of us, younger people speak that language natively. It’s what they grew up with and have always known, and they are very good at integrating social media into their daily routine, without even really thinking about it. It’s almost like breathing. But while they use it often and are very good at it (whatever “it” is), they don’t always understand how and why things work, and even more so, they generally don’t know much or anything about marketing. So there are pluses and minuses to seeking out the young to manage your social presence.

On the other side of things are people like Hessie and me, and most of our peers. We know marketing. We’ve worked in marketing. But we come to the digital realm as foreigners. We had to learn it in much the way any of us had to learn to speak another language. It wasn’t a part of our every day life since we were young. Many of us were in our 30’s, 40’s, and even 50’s when social media really showed up on the scene. These folks, myself included, have education and experience in marketing, PR, communications, and business to varying degrees. But as a result, we approach social media more as marketers, and less as users. We don’t fully understand the motivations as to why people are there, and what they really want. All we care about are our products and services, and data.

Yes, I’m painting with broad strokes here, but it seems as though most people working in this field seem to fall into one of those two categories. And that’s not to say that a younger person with social savvy can’t have marketing knowledge. Nor is it to say that older marketers can’t find that middle ground as well. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. In fact, I know plenty of folks, young and old, who seem to do a good job of bridging that generation gap, and bringing the best of both worlds together.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and perhaps this is one of the reasons why I’ve struggled lately, and have been thinking about the continued evolution of my business model.  We need to evolve and change as we gain a better understanding of how this all works. If we’re not gaining that better understanding, and we’re not evolving, we’re in trouble.

To those of you who are on the younger side of things, I urge you to learn. Learn about marketing, PR, communications, and the like. Study it, and marry it with your innate knowledge and experience of the social media world. Don’t just hide behind methods, tips, tricks, and the quest for data and influence.

To those of you who are my peers and are marketers or communicators, don’t just practice those disciplines. It’s arrogant of us to come to a new (or new-ish) place with the same old stuff. We need to take our time and really learn what it means to be a denizen of the social space,  not just a business.

There is a middle ground; a balance. And we need to find it. All of us.

And I’m not even sure it’s a matter of just finding it, but constantly seeking it out. It’s a regular journey without a final destination.

Where do you fit in, and how are you making sure you remain relevant and effective in the world of social media?

 

 

 Marketer Meets Social User: Who Runs Your Social Media?
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2 comments
annelizhannan
annelizhannan

I am with you Ken, perhaps because of our mutual demographic. I find it a constant struggle to learn and master the application of digital technology for the social space where our youth have the intrinsic skill but have yet to acquire the wisdom from experience of marketing , communications and public relations. On the positive side, I find it an area that can unite the generations at center court  'if'  we each have the patience and will to teach, learn and listen.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@annelizhannan I think that's one of the reasons why I love teaching, both college students, and older business owners and marketers. I love bringing these two different experiences and mindsets together, and it keeps me on my toes. I always end up learning things from my students, and it makes me sharper and better at what I do.

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