As many of you know, we have been doing a significant amount of research here at the consortium recently in regard to social networking. While some of this has ben for a white paper shared internally in the consortium, our musing on social networks has appeared multiple times here on the blog in the past several months (see here, for instance).
Tied into those comments on social networking, though, are questions regarding social marketing, especially as we think about how brands co-exist in these online spaces. There are always a variety of opinions on what this means for users, what the correct balance between marketing and a lack of commercialism is, and...on the business side...what constitutes a worthwhile investment and what does not.
We've seen these issues crop up in relation to Second Life, as we've written about a few times as of late (see this post, for instance). In relation to that, our partners over at GSD&M's Idea City have written some commandments for social marketing that are worth glancing through.
The key here, and in a lot of our recent work, is that it is vital to understand the nature of online social networks, both through explicit social networking sites and fan/affinity/common interest communities. Further, the degree to which we value experimentation in these spaces should be reconceptualized, especially when we think about playing with these technologies as building toward the future but not as the replacement for current marketing, either.
The problem here are two camps of extremes, one of which dismisses these technologies altogether and the other which promotes it to the point that the overhype damages the value.
The social marketing commandments, building on the idea of the importance of transparency, suggesting for brand managers, advertisers, and the like to expect surprises, spend time with and understand the community one is marketing to, and make it the priority of a committed expert on staff rather than as another duty piled on someone looking in many directions at once.
I thought it was nice to see what someone on the advertising side considers the primary underlying principles behind these issues. I agree that social marketing can't just be considered a good idea to do without putting any consideration into it, but it's not very helpful to think it isn't a viable form of marketing because we haven't developed a generalized metric to measure its success across the board.
But, through all of this, I'm reminded of one thing: there's really very little that's new, and it is increasingly ironic that some people dismiss the idea of social and viral marketing altogether when word-of-mouth is one of the oldest types of marketing out there, just as its ironic that people consider product placement something new...