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“What’s In It For Me?” is not the question in social media

What's in it for me?

In digital marketing best practices one of the key questions any company needs to answer from the visitors perspective in regards to the content they are displaying is “what’s in it for me?” or else risk losing the potential customer to someone who does answer that question for them, and obviously cares about how their product or service relates to that individuals needs.

Inspired by a conversation with Mack Collier yesterday on Twitter about the value and risks associated with “Pay Per Tweet” (another post on another day), and Mack’s assertion that anything promotional must create value for everyone, that  I started thinking about how that simple and meaningful question has shifted with the ability of everyone on the web to be an influencer and use their social currency to help, or hinder brands.

With the new age of social media, any type of outreach efforts must answer two questions to be relevant and impactful: “What’s in it for me?” & “How will it provide value to my network?”.

Failing to answer the question relating to the network may doom any efforts on your part to a budget poorly spent, less than stellar results and a backlash waiting to happen.

Using the social web is a hard-to-resist platform to spread word-of-mouth about your brand, but as many of us “old-timers” in the digital and social marketing world continue to espouse, it’s also not the place for business as usual and repurposing the same “push” marketing messages. While there are many ways to integrate your traditional digital and offline branding into social channels, it must be done with the utmost care and consideration. You must recognize that any type of outreach effort using these tools, or to people who use them, means you are asking that individual to SPEND their social capital by participating with you and spreading your message to their network of friends. That’s a lot to ask if what you are offering is only of value to the person you are asking.

At some point the majority of the top 1000 consumer brands will be using social media, and if the past 6 months is any indication, they will be running contests. These contests will most likely involve mandating that in order to enter you have to a) tweet a message to your followers on Twitter, b) post a link on Facebook or update your status, c) write a blog post, d) upload a photo or video on Flickr or YouTube and promote it. Let’s say that out of the 1000+ people I follow on Twitter 500 of them are actively participating in one or more of a thousand contests… how long before my stream becomes unrecognizable and without any conversational value to me? Perhaps I would enter a few of the contests myself or, more likely, in the long run, I’d move to a different social networking platform to escape the noise generated and find meaningful conversations again.

There will come a time when the pure promotional use of social media will lead to a backlash against both the brands and the people participating if there is no REAL value for the network = information, customer service, input, etc. If you aren’t answering the second question you may end up being burnt when the tipping point comes.

In that regard, if you are using tools such as Facebook or Twitter, what would be some uses of social networks for promotional purposes that could add value to your stream and be a “win” for all considered?

[Photo credit: Bright_Star via Flickr]

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