Doing The Same Thing Differently

by Jay Deragon on 02/21/2012

Individuals and organizations are seeking ways to leverage social media for new revenues.  Yet most people approach social media simply as a new channel to do what they’ve always done. Then they wonder why they get what they’ve always got.

Social media is a new system of innovation based on communications.  The concept of a innovation system stresses that the flow of technology and information among people, enterprises and institutions is key to an innovative process. It contains the interaction between the actors who are needed in order to turn an idea into a process, product or service aimed at serving the market.

Given this definition why would people and organizations think that adding old messages, methods and ideas to a new system would produce any results different than what they always got?  Social media is not effective using non-innovative approaches to gaining attention, attraction, affinity and an audience with whom you want to “act” on your message.  In fact successful approaches to using social media as a new means are driven by opposite methods than those historically used by marketers.

Junk And Spam Are Anti-Social

Junk mail and spam is used as a sub-discipline and type of marketing. It is an attempt to send  messages directly to consumers, without the use of intervening media. This involves commercial communication (direct mail, e-mail, telemarketing) with consumers or businesses, usually unsolicited. In case you haven’t noticed direct marketing methods have largely adopted “junk methods” and “spam communications” aiming at getting consumers attention towards a product or proposition. Most people consider these old methods as anti-social and aggravating.  And they wonder why their methods only produce a 1 – 3 percent return on their efforts. Simply put the methods are anti-social and do not create an engagement and have no relevance to producing conversational currency.

E-mail spam has steadily, even exponentially grown since the early 1990s to several billion messages a day. Spam has frustrated, confused, and annoyed e-mail users.  The total volume of spam (over 100 billion emails per day as of April 2008[update]).  Now these same methods are infiltrating the space of social media.  Messages promising users $100k in income per month, inheritance from a long lost relative in Africa are obvious scams and spam. However messages from brands about products and services that have no context to my specific interest or needs are just as annoying as the spam and scam messages. Both steal my time and space with irrelevant conversations that cannot add value to my “interest”.  In other words these methods do not produce any conversational currency rather they steal our currency of time and productivity.

Getting What You’ve Never Got

In order to improve a result you have to change the system which produced the old results. A system represents processes, mindsets and methods aimed at delivering end results beyond the expectation of the end consumer whom consumes what your system produces.

If your system methods of communicating to markets is not producing improved results then just maybe you ought to consider changing your processes, mindsets and methods. Otherwise your going to get what you’ve always got. However it is likely that you’ll get worse results than you’ve ever got because people have now been empowered to tell their friends about your methods, mindsets and processes. 

{ 1 comment }

Christopher S. Rollyson March 1, 2012 at 12:38 am

Jay, I agree with you that scaled, outbound and unsolicited communications are so last century. As head of marketing several times in my career, I appreciate the value of “campaigns” but I also realize that the market and client expectations are shifting rapidly under firms’ feet—and most marcom has no clue because they are busy increasing volume to maintain results.

My take is that people accepted mass communications during the 20th century because they were new *and* information was scarce, relative to today. “Relevance” means attention and sorting, and it becomes important when there’s too much. More this disruption here:

The other thing is, very few people, including marketing leaders, understand how social business and digital word of mouth scale. When they serve people in open forums, other people discover and appreciate their acts of service—forever! Online acts of service, when done right, are annuities in attracting people and making people feel cared for.

Everyone is aware now, at least unconsciously, that time and attention are the scarcity, so violating them with spam invites mistrust, just the opposite of what firms should want! Meanwhile, intolerance grows.

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