Welcome Social-Relationship Marketing

Where Social Media and the Realities of the Business World Collide

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Judy Shapiro
Judy Shapiro
My lovefest with social media was ignited fairly early on (circa 2006) because it was "freep" (free and/ or cheap) and I was working at a small, innovative technology company that needed new ways to brand itself in the marketplace. Then, as social media expanded in scope, I began to work it from a pragmatic, business perspective, reveling in the fun of these new, real-time interactive technologies. Marketers love feedback and this "new" new media (vs. the "old" new media) offered endless ways to get feedback immediately. What's not to love? I wrote of my optimism about social media in 2009 post.

But make no mistake -- until fairly recently I thought that social media lived within the marketing ecosystem. I tell you now -- I was wrong. I now recognize that social media is not just part of a marketing system, but is the underpinning of a new corporate marketing system that is violently erupting with a spasm all around us. Just a quick dip into recent industry coverage reveals a broad set of articles that outline the scope of social media's impact:

These articles represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the blogs, white papers and seminars that focus on social media. Yet despite the media deluge, I continued to miss the full importance of social media till now because social media was quite immature from a business model perspective. But now I see it for what it is -- a significant game changer that I have not seen since the heady days when Internet burst into the business consciousness circa 1998 changing virtually every business practice as a result. Social media is behaving similarly; radically changing virtually every corporate business practice, with some of the most significant impacts affecting marketing.

Still not convinced that social media is the main act in the next evolution of marketing, then let me remind of the fact that many of the most of the highly capitalized companies today are those in the social media space or companies scrambling to buy assets in this space (sound familiar?). I see nothing to equal it in scope or influence since then (nope not even mobile marketing -- as much as I love that segment).

At this point I hope you are convinced that my argument is, at least, plausible (and if you don't agree, I'd love to hear from you). Then the question becomes, "What now? What works in the real world?"

For me, I say: Welcome, SRM ... social-relationship marketing. For the record, I did not coin this phrase as there are a few obscure references to it, but nothing specific. So let me offer a defining set of principles as a stake in the ground for the industry as a way to start the conversation. These principles are borne of pragmatism that marketers need to function as they begin to shape the actions and attitudes that define a different marketing organization. They are also borne from a practitioner's perspective rather than an academician or consultant vantage and as result can be sometimes messy and unpredictable (sorry folks -- but life's not always as tidy as we might like).

With those caveats, let's Define: Guiding Principles of SRM (version 1.0):

  1. Embrace of the fact that the "one:many" marketing model of today is giving way to the "many:many" marketing platform where the audience is not passive in the marketing mix but active participants.
  2. Innovation is happening "on the edge" -- as likely to percolate from the community as the R&D team.
  3. Emphasis is on relationship -- not management or control -- probably the toughest challenge for organizations.
  4. Enabling socially engineered experiences possible with sophisticated UI strategies baked into every web interaction.
  5. Apply technology to let people do what they love to do anyway. It's always a safe bet to use technology to let people connect -- with people they know, with people they don't know (but like to) and with their community or "tribe" (term courtesy of Seth Godin).

Once these principles are truly established in your mind, then tactically, the next step in a SRM marketing model is to create the interaction engine where these principles coalesce in a web experience that is a mashup of community, direct marketing, content, connectivity and commerce. It is where all the social interaction funnels like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook et al can be driven to for a coordinated, ongoing relationship that can be sustained and ultimately used to convert to sales.

This is how business will get done with SRM taking the lead and we've really just begun. "Welcome, SRM. We've been waiting for you."

Judy Shapiro is chief brand strategist at CloudLinux and has held senior marketing positions at Paltalk, Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs. Her blog, Trench Wars, provides insights on how to create business value on the internet.
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