The best book I’ve read on the subject of inbound marketing is The Zen of Social Media Marketing, by Shama Hyder Kabani. Since our most-trendy of industries is great at renaming things, she informs us that the paradigm of Traditional v. Social Media has changed already, at least by name. Hipsters now call it Outbound v. Inbound Marketing.
The difference between the two depends largely on issues of control and messaging. Traditional media has always been pretty much a one-way street, with messaging going out from the advertiser to the audience. Since the audience couldn’t talk back directly, advertisers became expert at message control. As we all know, every facet of a traditional business communication is thoroughly vetted by a great many people before the public ever sees it. (For example, once during a food shoot, I watched no less than eight morbidly obese marketing managers standing in a circle, sweating bullets, bent over the crown of a hamburger bun while a food stylist arranged sesame seeds on it with a hot-glue gun. Being on the periphery of this action was the most fun.)
Then the web came along, and with it, interactivity. Advertisers who just threw their TV spots onto the web failed, largely because the intended target audience had an open forum in which to critique the work, which they did with gleeful abandon. Thus the perils of Inbound Marketing were laid bare: It’s a two-way street now, and marketers have to cope with that.
We learned the hard way that you can’t do hard sell on the web. It’s better to respect the idiosyncrasies of the medium. It is called social media, after all, so be sociable. Ms. Kabani advises us to not be pushy and send consumers online messages they didn’t show an interest in getting. Instead, create a social-media page and use it to invite consumers to events. Encourage them to bring friends. Be patient and don’t expect to garner clients immediately. Use the page to post announcements and status updates regarding your business. And by all means, link to your website, over and over again.
Yes, it’s hard to break old habits when we’ve become accustomed to one-way communication. But it’s not impossible. Respect social media and it will respect you. It’s where everything is headed, and we’d better understand it now, before it evolves too much into Survival of the Fleetest.
Mark Schildberg is KK BOLD’s Associate Creative Director. He cannot run a four- minute mile.