Social Marketing Is Here To Stay. Stop Complaining And Start Learning.

Practically everything on the internet as it relates to business and making money is pure speculation. There is no institution for business and marketing practices on the web. Universities still have no clue as to how to teach real internet marketing practices. So people need to stop complaining about new marketing practices as if those who are partaking in them are breaking some ivory tower rule of online business!

As I peruse the blogosphere lately, I find some of my fellow online business owners engaged more and more in battles over whether certain marketing tactics are worthy of testing as if there is some established law to live by in online business.

There has been enough history behind business in the offline world to expect such bias against speculative or radically different marketing practices. Yet even offline we find that some of the businesses that break the “rules” are the ones who thrive and dominate the market. (See WIRED, March 2008, “Apple Be Evil: How Steve Jobs gets everything right by doing everything wrong.”)

My point here is that, while I agree it is healthy to question tactics you might or might not use to market your sites or your clients’ sites, it is quite another to blindly over-argue against new marketing methods in the defense of “traditional” internet marketing and SEO.

There are arguments and questions all over the web regarding the value of social marketing. SEOs questioning the metrics, the “measurability” of social media marketing. Site owners questioning all manner of things in social marketing such as the value of the results vs. the effort put into campaigns.

The people who get poor results are quick to blame the methods rather than their failure in implementation or understanding. From where I sit it seems there is a collective cry against social marketing as a legitimate link building, SEO, direct traffic-driving and branding tool.

This cry comes from several different sources. Some respected SEOs decry social marketing in favor of the status quo simply because they’ve been in charge (they think) of the web for a decade. What they said about marketing and SEO was gospel for so long that being unseated by the DIY community has come as a blow many have dealt with miserably.

Other SEOs have tried to adopt social marketing as part of their services in order to look current, yet they display an utter lack of understanding of what real social marketing is really about. Often mixing it in with the outdated methods of the past and calling it social marketing to drum up business on today’s web.

In forums I see a lot of novices making wild claims (big surprise there) about the efficacy or the failure of social marketing to drive traffic.

Fighting Change On The Web Is The Very Definition of Futility

What I don’t understand is the resistance to anything new on the marketing scene. If the internet is anything it is a wild brew of evolution and change. Daily change. Daily discovery. When some people come up against new ideas and methods for marketing online, their reaction seems to be one of resistance to the change that embodies what the web thrives on.

People get used to methods that work for them and are loathe to see them become outdated and ineffective. To the point that they will even champion those methods long after everyone else has moved on. The irony is that so many people get used to snapshots in time on the internet that they actually allow themselves to believe that whatever era they are presently enjoying is going to last as long as they own their business or are bought out by Google.

What everyone who merely surfs and shops on the web loves about the web, these marketers hate. Change, evolution, new ideas, new methods; these are the things that make the web so exciting and so alluring to most users. When marketers rail against new ideas and methods such as social marketing past a certain point, they begin to look like luddites.

Sort of like old, grouchy men talking on and on about the old days when things were better. I’m sorry, but things have never been better for marketers and commerce on the web than now. Business has never been better than right now. Opportunities for anyone to come online and make something out of nothing in myriad different ways have never been so plentiful as they are right now.

I happened on a post today from a pretty prominent blog that questioned the value of what John Reese is doing with Facebook. The main point was that what he’s doing with his 5000 friend list drive will suit only Reese and offer nothing to the people who’ve taken part in the experiment.

This is the kind of short-sighted thinking that is prevalent in many parts of the web today. And from some former “revolutionaries” of web marketing no less! People who broke the rules themselves back in the day to gain their place on the web they enjoy now.

The people on John Reece’s friend list are privy to a lot of education. Many of them have more friends on Facebook than they have on their email lists. Yet I hear people scorning the whole practice with incredibly weak arguments against building huge friend lists “since no one can have real friends in the thousands.”

Really? And when did that become a requirement on the web or in marketing? Email list building has been around for well over a decade and I don’t recall ever joining an email list only after I proved to the owner that I house sat for him in college or met her on a cruise in 1987. Don’t trip out on semantics man! You say friend, I say customer. The result is some sort of relationship that furthers your business. Call it what you will, but don’t call it useless out of hand.

The argument against social networks and their usefulness for marketers is usually steeped in ill-conceived logic people would never use to discount the marketing methods of yesterday.

Viva La Revolucion!

In the change and evolution of marketing practices is our salvation as marketers. Fighting the inevitable, against our own prospective customers who have whole heartedly embraced the social web, is an exercise in utter futility. Successful internet marketers are always on the forefront of that change. Often they are the arbiters of such change.

Instead of fighting the will of the web, smart marketers are working at social marketing in different ways. We are poking and prodding. Testing and tweaking methodologies. Some experiments fail. Some succeed. But at least we are playing the game at hand instead of mourning the loss of yesterday’s tactics for getting attention.

So What If A Social Marketing Experiment Fails? So What If We Don’t Fully Know The Outcome Before We Begin?

If nothing comes from Reese’s Facebook experiment, so be it. I argue something already has come of it very obviously. But even if it fell flat on its face,at least someone did something new and different to try and squeeze a new result out of the social web. This is how profound discoveries are made.

This is exactly how successful marketing practices that serve online business owners for years are invented. Through experimentation. Testing. Tweaking. Pushing the boundaries.

To sit on the sidelines heckling everyone for trying new things is not only needlessly distracting, it is also quite embarrassing to the heckler who inevitably must join in when the workers have discovered a brilliant tactic from their efforts!

The WayBack Machine is unforgiving of reckless statements of the past.

It is from over 10 years of perspective that I can say with certainty one should never allow themselves to get caught making such foolish statements against change on their blogs or anywhere else. Whatever you think is never going to work, where the web is concerned, usually does in some form or another given time and experimentation.

Do you have to know why you are on a friend list or posting on a social community blog to know that you are partaking in the most exciting experiment going on the web today?

Certainly many of the things we are doing today won’t prove out in the long term. In the future we will all laugh about some of the things we try with marketing today just as we laugh about the FFA pages, classified sites, and adsense spamming we did back then. But I refuse to sit around worshiping the past and ridiculing the present at the expense of the future of my business.

The action is clearly in social marketing.

This fact is undeniable no matter what movers and shakers list you pull the data from. Presently the majority of all the traffic on the web flows through all kinds of social or Web 2.0 sites.

So what if we don’t yet know how to pull statistics out of everything we do on the social web? So what if we don’t know every conceivable outcome of building social networks and conversing with our customers? Does that mean we don’t try at all? That is the antithesis of entrepreneurial spirit. And it has no place in this revolution.

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Jack Humphrey

I've been free and thriving as a "digital nomad" for 20 years. And I've helped tens of thousands of people along the way to build and grow businesses that enable them to cut their own trail in life outside the conventional birth-school-work-grave life cycle so many are unfortunate to have to endure. If you meet me soon enough, your cycle could be birth-school-freedom. But it's never too late to break the cycle, either! If you are ready to take your business higher while increasing the time you have for living your biggest life, I just might be able to help you out.