Social Symphony

The Social Spill

Gunther Koo - Thursday, June 10, 2010

Are we heading for our own social spill? Will the spotlight from some unforeseen event shine light on inter personal manipulation that revolts the public? Will campaign based social marketing practices create an uproar and prove out of touch with a socially evolving public? The 1979 Pemex Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico went on for 10 months before it was contained.  This spewed 30,000 gallons a day, 9,000,000 total gallons of crude oil dumped into the gulf. Who of us remembers that, what change did that bring about and are things different today? 

Then people had no real ability to let their voices be heard beyond the local level. Today personal opinions, appeals, stories, demands, ideas, solutions, expectations, frustrations and emotions are spilling out daily across our socially fueled lives. The explosion of concern about the BP oil spill is painfully visible across millions of posts, feeds and tweets every day, forcing the media, the politicians and the companies to take notice and act for the people, certainly more than in 1979. Our national energy strategy and its reliance on deep water drilling will most likely forever be changed. 

Why now and not then? Look at Greenpeace's targeting Nestle over the destruction of rainforests to grow palm oil. Nestles was caught napping, their sloppy planning was exposed and passed across multiple social platforms where millions got involved. They have since changed that supply channel which is a win for them as it gets in the way of the relationship Nestles wants with people. Today companies have to be looking across their enterprise and thinking what might happen if their practices get exposed as hurting people. If they have practices that raise concern if exposed, that don’t fit with the times we live in, they need to change them.  

This will be good for everyone, for brands, for their customers, prospects and shareholders… we all win. Which brings me to digital marketing. Our industry jargon reveals our mentality… how we think about what we do determines our behavior. Why then do we talk about ”targeting consumers” with “campaigns” that use “roadblocks” and “micro-target” with a “call to action”.  What behavior does that drive inside us and is it aligned with social connection? Is this conquest marketing mentality and the related tactics our deep-water drilling, does this thinking reveal our reliance on palm oil?  This mindset is historically based on pushing messages at people. Our campaigns of conquest, roadblocks and takeovers will work against us in this increasingly socialized world. 

When privacy seems to be on everyone’s lips, why are we tying ourselves to strategies and tactics that connect directly to the root of the problem? Manipulating technology because we can and because it is still legal is not the foundation we want for what can be a great business… social marketing. For many of us in the social trenches it is clear that building relationships is job one. Long-term relationships will be the currency of the future for brands. If we start with conquest leading our thinking, we are working against the long term interests of the brand. 

We are now in that “moment of beginning” with social relationships. The great news is we can all win here. Companies can be successful at creating deep, long term mutual relationships… they have to approach this the right way. Each and every brand needs to change their mindset and forever avoid their own digital spill.