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Cameron Prockiw is the Big Cheese at Vovia and has helped top companies around the world use the internet more effectively for over 20 years. Cam also enjoys traveling, experiencing different cultures, and unsurprisingly, cheese.

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Social Media is Not Another Advertising Medium

timesquareTime and time again I’ve met marketers who want to know how to advertise using social networks. My advice to them is don’t. Please don’t! if you’re thinking of social networks as an advertising medium, you’re missing the point. Sure you can promote your products and services using social media, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg… and it’s not the part that social media is best at.

Social media is really a new form of communication, more similar to email, the telephone, or good old face-to-face meetings that it is to television, radio or newspapers. Why? Because the communication is two way! As a result, people expect to have a voice and be listened to. Can you imagine meeting with a client, talking the entire time about your products, and not giving your client a chance to get a word in edgewise? Probably not as that would be extremely rude. The same is true of social media—most companies need to spend less time talking (advertising and promoting) and more time listening as it’s rude not to listen. If someone asks you a question, answer it promptly. If someone mentions a bad experience with your product or service, contact that person and do what you can to rectify the problem. And if someone just wants to tell you how great their weekend was, take a moment to respond. These conversations are personal and don’t all have to lead directly to the end goal of selling your product or service.

Take the time to listen and even initiate conversations with your clients, with the goal of just getting to know them better. If you take the time to listen, they’ll tell you amazing things. They’ll often tell you what they like and don’t like about your products (and your competitors too!), sometimes they’ll come up with ideas for improvement, and if you’re doing a good job they may even thank you. And if you listen really closely, you may be able to uncover other important information about your clients such as who they are (demographics and psychographics); their needs, wants and desires; and their purchasing patterns. Being a great marketer is all about listening.

You won’t go wrong if you treat you social media as a customer service and customer development initiative (rather than an advertising initiative). If you do this properly, you will also be able to announce the release of your new product or promote an event you’re selling tickets to, but that shouldn’t be your primary purpose. By following this simple premise, I can assure you that the rewards will be far greater than advertising can ever provide. You’ll develop deeper connections with your clients, resulting in a higher degree of brand loyalty. And who knows… they may teach you a thing or two as well!