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Your Social Network: The next place for you to avoid marketers (and how marketers can get ahead of the game)

When I came home from work the other day, I swung by my mailbox in hopes of finding something exciting. Instead, seven out of the nine items were junk (the other two, of course, sadly being bills). Okay, I won’t call it junk because I’m sure someone worked very hard building a beautiful direct mail piece for me to immediately discard in the trash, er, I mean recycling bin. Alright, next stop, Gmail. Surely a friend would want to catch up with me, maybe some information from one of my professors about next week’s class, or maybe just pictures of my parents’ puppy. Nope! Just deals, deals, deals. I didn’t open any of them because, quite frankly, I just tuned out.

After my not so striking realization that snail mail and email were dead at the hands of my direct marketing friends (sorry Helen!), I thought I would take a break and do some social networking surfing (side note, has anyone come up with a new term for “surfing the web” yet?). Whose birthday is it? What’s my friend John up to? What happened at that party I missed? What’s today’s must-read news? Do I have the new Facebook profile? I couldn’t wait to find out the answers to all these questions and more. Of course, they wouldn’t be too easy to come by because I’d have to shuffle through deals, deal, deals.

Here we are at the edge of a new frontier of marketing, social networks. They’re ripe to help marketers reach the Holy Grail by creating a way for them to connect directly to their audience where their audience is hanging out. Yet, most (I’ll make blanket statements here because I can) of them fail to actually engage with and converse with their consumers, and, instead, just continue to talk at them as they would through more traditional channels. Many of us have already discussed how communicating via social media has helped brands recover after fiascos such as the new Gap logo and Tropicana packaging, but why should it get to that point?

Instead, marketers should try to engage in conversation with their customers. They should find out what’s on their customers’ minds before making major changes and they should be in listening mode instead of reactionary mode. Communities are one way to help get ahold of your customers’ innermost thoughts, but as marketers we must strive to create more conversation as a whole and less broadcasting.

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