“Corporations are people, my friend.”
At the risk of alienating you from the get-go, forget everything you associate with that statement and try to think about it solely from a marketing perspective. Regardless of our role, it’s impossible to escape the fact that businesses are also consumers. And consumers are people. This has always been the case. Within any company there is a ultimately a person that makes purchasing decisions, and that person relies heavily on their peers in order to make an educated decision. There is no one-size fits all marketing strategy, which is why facilitating the P2P conversation is so important in today’s highly segmented environment.
We like to talk about marketing in terms of B2B or B2C, as if there is clear divide between the two. As the lines continue to blur we’re seeing a movement toward a B2X approach, due in large part to the role of social influence in decision-making. The Content Marketing Institute found that among all tactics, both B2B and B2C professionals employ social media marketing as their top tactic.
As marketers we’re conditioned to think of our audience as targets. This approach is tied to the one-way traffic model of advertising, where a message is simply being told to someone. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer a conversation where both parties have the ability to communicate. We need to mature past this one-dimensional mindset of targets and begin engaging in the conversation. Social media has the potential to extend the conversation beyond traditional marketing speak and open a dialogue. For some PR folk, the very thought of opening a discourse is unnerving because – god forbid – you might lose control of the message. Done tactfully, you can still steer and promote an organic conversation that aligns with your goals.
In order to do this you need dive deeper than basic demographics or audience segmentation, and get to know your audience at the tribal level. A key component within any tribe is knowledge sharing, and that is what we are attempting to capitalize on from a marketing perspective. People are naturally tribal, and we all belong to multiple tribes. Within a given organization, for example, the IT and Finance teams might be tribes. Tribes also exist across organizations (think CMOs), and members rely heavily on the expertise and experiences of their peers in guiding their decisions. Knowing a tribe is about knowing who are the key influencers among that group, and understanding what makes them tick. From a marketing perspective, these are the tribes we need to be observing, engaging, and learning from.
Sharing is such an inherent characteristic of social media, yet all too often we’re focused on what we are saying instead of what the conversation is saying. In order to thrive for the long haul, today’s marketers need to understand the role that P2P influence plays in shaping perceptions. To be part of this dynamic you first need to remember that you too are a person and not a corporation. You need to be willing to take off your sales hat and join the tribe.