Social Networks, and the Expectations Around “Free” Content and Platforms

I am writing from our CRM Acceleration event in Atlanta, put on by our good friends and partners Levementum. The audience has been awesome, and I’ve had some very interesting conversations around where some very big companies here are looking to go with Sugar as a platform. Always great to be in front of customers.

I am also very much looking forward to the discussion around social media and inbound marketing at our CRM Acceleration event next Tuesday in Boston. There will be some great presentations from Hubspot, InsideView and SugarCRM, but I am most interested in seeing how real business people are digesting all these new concepts.

In throwing around some ideas for discussion with the speakers, a topic came up around social networking – namely “do users of these services just want to talk to each other, or is this an expected channel to hear/see brand messaging?” In short – are we jerks for intruding on these social interactions?

I don’t think we are jerks. Here’s why. (And it is not just because I am a social marketer.)

The social web is where things are happening.  This means that our entertainment, socializing etc. is happening on various platforms.  Broad-based social networks like Facebook are “free” to use s an end user, but that freedom has to come with some expected “cost.”

Take Hulu as a web 2.0 provider of premium TV content. Just as people watching over the air network TV over the past 50 years expected advertisements in return for programming, Hulu viewers sit through the ads to see their favorite shows on-demand, while they should be hard at work.

I see Facebook and Twitter having a similar trade-off. But in a much more immersed manner. To leverage these broad networks, and consume our bit of bandwidth on them, we must expect to have some marketing thrown at us. It is a little more complex than embedded commercials, because we have to re-create this marketing as relevant engagements, not unidirectional messages.

I will continue to repeat this mantra over and over – as marketers we have to learn to create buyers, not simply push products. By leveraging these networks as the medium, we can craft the right kinds of messages that identify, engage and convert in a very natural manner that can begin a much more seamless and profitable customer lifecycle.

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