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Social Media marketing can be likened to herding cats or catching greased pigs – there are so many sites, so many activities, and so many connections to be made. Where do we focus, and why? Can we manage social media marketing? By developing processes, the marketer can more easily share the work across a team of individuals, make documented improvements over time, and help sell the work across to the C Suite.
One bit of work that is helpful in creating process is to understand the various parts of social media in terms of patterns. I’ve heard it said that there are only 10 or so stories in the world – that all novels, plays, and movies somehow fit these prototypes. The same is true for social media sites.
The 3 primary patterns of social media are:
Absolute anonymity is rare in social media. In some form or another, users define themselves. We might look at this as self-branding, hanging up their shingle, or putting on a mask. The behavior could be likened to warriors of old exhibiting particular scar patterns to communicate their conquests, or handing their coat of arms over their door. For all, “creating a profile” tells the other members of the community who you are. You are identifying yourself.
The process of self-identification is also the signal to others with whom you wish to form a relationship There would be no purpose in declaring yourself, and then refusing all relationships. Hanging up your shingle (your sign) is declaring, “I’m open for business”.
Almost all social media web sites have a function in which users create a connection with other users. Open forums or discussion boards are an interesting exemption from that rule – as they are basically an open group and it is by the mere virtue of being allowed onto the group that the relationship is formed.
In some cases, relationships have reciprocity, and at others, are one-sided. I can follow Barack Obama on Twitter, but it is unlikely he’ll follow me back. “Friends” on Facebook are tacitly reciprocal, although one person can set some privacy settings which make the relationship extremely uneven. On LinkedIn, you have to let me be in your network.
When a relationship is formed on a social media site, a node has been created in a network connected to other nodes with ties – the ties being the connections. In a network, there is some relationship of at least one of the nodes to another; otherwise, the individuals would just be in sets. For instance, most of us belong in the set of hominids with two eyes – but that doesn’t automatically place us in a network.
It is often said that “ties” are the relationships between the nodes. But for a network to occur, ties have to allow communication or influence of some sort, otherwise, again, we would just be discussing sets.
Just as it is in offline life, there are many ways in which members of a social network can engage with one another. The predominant engagements are:
Monologue: I might be a great orator before a magnificent crowd, telling the audience what I think: it’s a monologue. The crowd might very well cheer (in which case, perhaps it’s become a dialogue) or I might be met with a chilly quiet. Monologues are common in social media. The monologue includes broadcasts, which is how quite a few marketing professionals refer to conventional old-school advertising.
Dialogue: The dialogue is found wherever we instant-message, private-message, or discuss. The dialogue is hallmarked with a fair amount of listening, and reciprocity.
Multilogue: In 1993 Gary Shank wrote a paper where he suggested a new linguistic model called the Multilogue. In the multilogue, a person might initiate the conversation but others might jump in and take it out of the originators control. A lot of people can talk at once, and still retain the distinctiveness of their own voice.
Transactions: Although few social media sites include elements of transactions – it is certainly feasible. You give me something, and I’ll give you something back. Facebook now allows merchants to place items for sell directly in posts. Social shopping is something that has been discussed a great deal in the past; and will probably grow even more
Gifting: Gifting behavior is ubiquitous in social media. It isn’t always obvious, but it abounds. When one person retweets another’s, recommends a book, or when a person “likes” a post, there is an element of gifting. It should be recognized that not all gifting is benevolent. Gifting can be a way of asserting control or begging forgiveness. For marketers, it could be valuable to understand the different motives behind gifting.
Anything New Beneath the Sun? Person sets out to find something, goes on a long journey, returns home to find the thing there all along. Its an old story. In social media, we self-identify, we connect, and we engage. The real fun is in all the thousands of details in between.
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