Making Social Media Marketing More Social

Is it time for a new approach to social media marketing?

The tourism vertical…and for that matter, most verticals…have proliferated the islands of social freedom with millions of tweets, thousands of fan pages and quite a few ‘viral’ videos.  And while our corporate face has done a solid job of joining the conversation, one cannot overlook the feeling that all of our efforts are, for the most part, not offering the impact we expected.

Of course, I am not sure any of us knew what to expect from social to begin with.  Too often we have been looking over our shoulder to measure the followers of a competitor without an understanding of what these ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ numbers really mean.

Successful case studies do exist and quite a few organizations are experiencing a marketing renaissance via social media marketing, but that seems to the exception rather than the rule.

Where do we go from here?

Let’s start by forgetting the social brand name…Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…and focus on the idea of social:

Social – a collaborative medium for communication between multiple people.

All well and good, but I think the corporate side of our social life is operating under a slightly different definition:

Social – a collaborative media for communication between brands and their consumers.

In that definition is the genesis of a thought that has been circling in my mind for the past few months:  corporations and brands are still attempting to use old marketing principals when engaging consumers in social media marketing.

Yes, the old push v. pull theory.

But I am not sure that is the end of the story.  Simply giving consumers an outlet for admiration or anger towards your brand is not enough.  For many companies, the wall of the ‘brand’ is still separating the consumer from the people behind the brand.

Social media highlights the best (and worst) of open communication between people, so why do corporations insist on hiding the people in the organization behind the idea of the brand?

I would argue that the employees are the brand.  Corporate culture is the brand.  The public perception of your company is your brand.

A logo and made-up social name is not a representation of your brand.

So, how about more social and less marketing in our Social Media Marketing strategy?

Let’s look at two examples that should help bring this concept into perspective.


I don’t think we need to say much more.  The poster child for social media marketing.

Yeah, the CEO tweets and authors a blog, but why is Zappos different from any other corporate marketing example?

The difference is employee participation, specifically the page.  This page tells me two things about Zappos approach to social.

First, they embrace and encourage their employees to not only use social (which they are doing anyway!), but also to actively promote the fact that they work at Zappos.

Secondly, Zappos has a clear understanding of the consumer sentiment around the brand, namely, customer service, which is run by people…not a logo.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

A familiar story, employee does X, posts video/photos/comments on social site Y and organization Z appears to lose control of the brand.

In this case, the employee captures a dangerous (but amazing) video of several skiers caught on a chair lift in a 100mph+ wind gust at the Jackson Hole ski area and then posts the video on YouTube.  Instantly, Jackson Hole has a safety issue with thousands of potential consumers.

But the video is not the point, engaging your employees in the right and wrong way to participate in social media is.

Realistically, organizations cannot monitor the social activities of their employees, nor should they.  However the reality is this, you have employees, they are your brand and they are active on social media sites.

Good or bad, those employees are setting the tone of your social media marketing even with the polished and scheduled messages from your ‘official’ fan pages.  The same fan pages that are struggling to attract a following.

People want to connect with other people via social media, not brands or an agency-created persona.  The people in your organization are (hopefully) passionate about their jobs and active on social media.

So why is employee involvement with social media is constantly looked upon as something to hide behind the brand site when those same employees are your best ambassadors for the brand?

Perhaps it is time to reevaluate our approach to social media.

Are branded pages and tweets the best way to connect with the people that purchase, use and love our product?

Or should we let the people that love our product to the point of employment communicate directly with people who are evaluating it?

Let’s remove the marketing and add more social to our social media marketing strategy.

Who knows, we might just pick up a few friends.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.