Social media and I go way back. As I’ve already explained before in my original post “If I can’t find them online, their resume is tossed,” I have experience with a variety of social media channels. As compared to some of my peers, I didn’t reluctantly sign up for a Twitter account for this class; I already had four accounts on my phone. I wasn’t trying to understand the definition of social media; I was exploring new areas further, like content marketing, analytics, brand humanization, and new demographics. I wasn’t taking this class to learn a new topic, I was jumping into this class because I already had a passion for this topic.
With that in mind, my final reflections on social media are slightly different. I didn’t realize over the past few months that social media marketing is beneficial for organizations; I already knew this. I can’t concede that Twitter is a cool tool; they’ve had me for years. I didn’t become familiar with listening and engaging with other users; I have been doing it professionally for my job for the past two years. I didn’t approach social media through a new business perspective; I’ve already been juggling my interactions with social media as both a consumer and a marketer.
I did, however, come to a revelation.
Most of us have heard of Diffusion of Innovations—the theory that explains why, how, and at what rate people adopt new ideas and technologies. Probably the most salient example of this theory applies to iPhones: there were those techy innovators who waited in line for the very first iPhone (and we all thought they were crazy). Then there were the early adopters who started buying them as well. When the early majority came around (including myself), we were buying our first iPhones while the innovators and early adopters were onto purchasing their second or third iPhones. The late majority picked up in recent years with the price going down and more available phone providers besides AT&T. The laggards are those that are just now deciding to ditch their Blackberries and “see what the hype is all about.”
Now all of us cool kids—being the innovators, early adopters, and early majority—wonder why the late majority and laggards never “got it.” Why did it take them so long to drink the Apple Kool-Aid? Why couldn’t they see the benefits and valuable technology when we did? We recognize how the iPhone has dramatically changed our lives, and the ways we communicate and work, and wonder how it has taken them so long to join.
My revelation this semester about social media mirrors this Diffusion of Innovations theory: brands that don’t already “get it” are already falling behind.
We’re at the point now where we’re no longer trying to figure social media marketing out…we already get it. We’ve already seen how it can be used for businesses, why it should be used for businesses, and the ways it dramatically changes the marketing landscape. We’re now at the stage of late majority, if not laggards. Companies that are still trying to figure it all out are slowly but surely losing their competitive edge to brands that have already been engaging with consumers on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+.
The difference between this theory’s application to iPhones and its relevance to social media marketing, however, is huge. Though iPhones have certainly changed the technology of mobile phones (and cameras and apps and MP3s and email and virtual notebooks and possibly everything else), we don’t technically need to have an iPhone. For businesses though, jumping on the social media bandwagon with the early majority was a key strategic business move. Brands need to be social, they need to be publishers, they need to be creating content, they need to be listening and engaging with their audiences, they need to meet their target markets on social media. It is now just a fact of how business operates, how customer service has changed, and how consumers are consuming information. For the companies that caught on—whether it was as innovators, early adopters or early majority—they realized what they needed to do to stay competitive. For the companies that still don’t quite “get it,” they’re now losing the race.
If you don’t believe me, consider this: an article was published in The Seattle Times this week, “Starbucks presses social media onward,” on how Starbucks is still continually learning and changing their social media strategy. Let me repeat: Starbucks. I think it’s safe to say that most people think of Starbucks when they think of brands that “get” social media. Starbucks was definitely an innovator on the scene, creating their “My Starbucks Idea” platform, and creating a consistent voice among their Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest accounts. They know how to use social media better than most companies, and yet they understand that its capabilities are constantly evolving. They are already finding new ways to use social media in order to stay relevant.
Not only that—they have perfected their social media strategy so well that they’ve been able to implement a global social media strategy, something some of the biggest global brands are still trying to navigate. Here’s a glimpse at their social media as it currently stands:
They know how to listen to what their consumers are saying, and respond thoughtfully (just look at their response to Demi Lovato!). They know how to gain followers online and drive them into stores. They know how to create content that is relevant, interesting, and engaging. They’re dominating the game and the industry—“6 ways Starbucks excels at social media marketing,” “How Starbucks uses Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+,” “Starbucks is ‘best loved food brand’ on social media,” “How Starbucks dominates the social media arena”—just to preview a slice of the conversation. Everyone is learning from them and yet, they are still learning.
Yes, as a native Seattleite, I may be slightly biased towards this coffee giant. And yes, it just so happens that my life goal is to become CMO of Starbucks. But I’m not making any of this up.
A recent article on Fast Company, “What the next generation of star CMOs have in common,” complemented my revelation perfectly. They explained that CMOs “embrace marketing analytics, cloud computing, and big data” because “the market is changing at warp speed.” If you’re a brand that’s still trying to figure out how to add social media and what to do with it, I’ve got some bad news: all of your competitors have already done this and are now moving on to the next trend, tool, platform, analytics. So unfortunately, I’ve learned this semester that if you don’t already “get it,” you’re already falling behind.