Why marketers should think "network" and unlearn "list marketing" to succeed in social

I tried to put some thinking around why (as more and more experts are starting to tell us) social marketing fails.

And the #1 thing that strikes me, although we have now used Social Networks for a while, is that the most widely used paradigm in marketing is still the one of lists.

People do email marketing to “lists”, buy “lists of leads”, manage “lists of clients” in a CRM system, advertize to “lists of people”, re-target “lists of shoppers”. Even Facebook offers advertisers the option to build custom audiences using “lists” (lists of emails, lists of ids).

Shouldn’t they already have switched to the Graph paradigm?

Social Media People

I even have a vivid memory of a meeting with a smart executive of a Social Monitoring startup. He was back from a client tour where he was exploring new concepts for monitoring, ones that would highlight “networks/tribes”. What he was reporting was:

– Every marketing VP he met got that their new audiences were organized in networks.

– But there were still interested in getting information/trends/sentiment by segments such as” i.e GenY, Boomers,… again, disguised lists of people who share specific attributes.

That day I understood how difficult it is for Corporations to digest the paradigm shift.

One thing that does not help is that the science of “marketing to lists” is still to be invented. When talking “viral marketing”, “word of mouth”, we often get the answer: buzz cannot be engineered and the only thing you can do is produce quality content and cross your fingers.

Maybe, maybe not. Years of practices have transformed “list marketing” into something somewhat predictable. I doubt people did A/B testing or customization based on past behavior from day 1. It will take time to define, test and validate the new formulas. What is certain, however, is that looking at the graph as a list won’t take us anywhere good. No, marketing to a network like it is a list is not going to work.

It feels like we are getting past this phase, and things are slowly moving. Thought leaders like Adobe have centered (oops the network again) their talk around “Unlearning marketing”, and more and more people, like Ray (see my old post) or Gregory Pouy are voicing concerns and asking for a process check.

Most of the “unlearning” that needs to take place is, to me, forgetting old “list” based practices and inventing new ones for the “networked” world.

As a first step, I recommend that people look at their lists (followers, email…) and find how people in these lists connect/engage with each other. Soon you’ll see that your list of prospects is actually a network! Seeing is believing and maybe that’s a very good place to start.


PS: For an excellent recap of the Adobe Summit, check out http://www.adometry.com/blog/2014-adobe-summit-recap/.

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