The social media revolution has made communications social. It sounds like a platitude but it isn't. Because of the panicked, headless-chicken phase that marketing went through following the bombardment of stats about social media's influence, the focus has come to rest on 'media' rather than 'social' in social media. Yes, marketers all now acknowledge that social media is important. But it is so much easier to admit that you need to be on Facebook than to actually do it: to reengineer roles, capabilities and departments accordingly.
The dawn of social communication has nothing to do with what channels you are engaging with. Well, of course it does, but that's not the revolutionary bit. Social communications is about being human. It means starting with your fans and not with you and your brand. It means changing, quite fundamentally, how you approach marketing.
Take your actual social life. How do you behave with your friends and family? Do you continually send them videos about how awesome you are? Do you hold up posters showing off your new haircut in front of them while they're trying to watch the rugby? Think about if you were trying to sell them a product/service/idea - how would you go about it?
I'm guessing you would immediately omit from your consideration set everyone who does not already like you enough to want to spend an evening with you. That would be a dramatic cut from the initial set of extended family, B-list friends, acquaintances and those who have heard of you. You would then make your shortlist of those who love you, and whom you would love to hang out with, and think about what kinds of restaurants they like. You may send them a review of a new spot you've been meaning to try. You may even offer to pick them up. But, if you select intelligently and understand them well enough, your idea will be so thrilling to them you won't need to offer anything to sweeten the deal.
You all go out for dinner. And that is just the beginning. The 'purchase', the holy grail of marketing, is actually where it all starts to get really interesting. Everyone's experience at dinner needs to match or exceed expectations for them to want to do it again, or at the very least to let you choose the venue again. If the experience is positive (and this will be a composite measure of things both in and out of your control, such as noise levels, the company, the food etc.) feelings of goodwill will be transferred to you. Friends of your friends will hear about what a great night they had with you (via all forms of social media from twitter right through to chats over coffee). They will be more likely to accept invitations from you over others in future; they may invite friends who they think will also love it. It could even become a Friday night tradition.
We understand this social exchange so intuitively, and yet feel overwhelmed by how to behave as marketers. But the rules for social communication are the same.
So instead of thinking in the paradigm that bombarding 'audiences' with irrelevant information 'drives awareness', consider that technology (ironically) has enabled us to communicate authentically. From 'spray and pray' messaging to targeted, relevant, meaningful and effective communication. It's a simple formula. And it works:
Social communication means investing heavily (time, money and people) into understanding your current evangelists and users, and equally heavily into post-purchase relationships with your customers. Think of ways to delight your fans, just as you would your friends. It means knowing exactly what you stand for and believe in, but where to be flexible. Marketing has to become truly human.