I read Mashable’s list of the 10 Smartest Companies in Social Media and came away from it more than a little annoyed, if not outright mad.
Most of the examples on the list of “smart” engagement with customers through social media tools are more or less fine. Yeah, Zappos and Comcast are great (if completely unscalable) instances of companies listening to consumer conversations and responding accordingly. I’ll take slight issue with the Starbucks example since it’s just a big, flashy version of what companies have been/should have been doing all along, which is listening to feedback from a customer base. It’s essentially a glorified “Tell Us What You Think” form that resulted in lots of press but which I’ve yet to hear about again, at least in terms of “here’s what’s resulted from your opinions” results.
But the one that sticks in my craw the most and which taints the rest of the list is #2, Whopper Sacrifice. You know, the one that was done via Facebook and which asked people which friends they would sacrifice for a Whopper or some such.
My problem with it is that it is not actually a social media marketing campaign, at least not in the best sense of the term. Instead it was a marketing campaign that exploited (and I’m purposely choosing that word) a social media platform. It’s an ad campaign. It’s a gimmick. And it has nothing to do with social media.
Social media marketing is about communication. It’s about conversation. It’s about interaction. It’s not about some gimmick that just happens to involve your “friends” on a social network.
Mashable confuses “campaigns that received publicity” with “campaigns that actually embodied social media and its strengths.” The Starbucks execution and a couple others are more mild examples of that but the Burger King one is the most egregious.
On the flipside is the example of Scott Monty of Ford, but actually not for the reasons the list states, which has something to do with a cease and desist letter. Instead Scott, who is the head of social media at the car company, is out in the social media world every day not only interacting with people and slowly changing the public opinion of Ford.
In short, he’s doing public relations.
Public relations is the utilizing of media tools in order to change opinions and perceptions by disseminating a company line, correcting mistakes and overall participating in the conversation. That used to be confined to the mainstream press but now that involves social publishing outlets as well. Scott does that every day and does it well.
Everyone else on that list pulled what amounts to a stunt. Most were successful to some extent on getting press for that stunt, but Scott is engaged in a day to day struggle to not only publicize what Ford is doing but combat incorrect information and make sure, in a very respectful and open engaging way, that misinformation is corrected.
That’s why the companies that are hiring people like Scott – people who are knowledgable, personable and just all around stellar communicators – are the smartest ones in the social media world.