A lot of companies (I would guess 100%) are either currently using social media or attempting to use social media for the express purpose of selling product. Most of them – and the inbound marketers they work with – will deny it.
They will talk about relationships and engagement and social capital building. But at the end of the day, the CEO expects (and in most cases demands) that every marketing dollar contribute to the bottom line in a tangible and measurable way.
Method, for example, has brilliantly marketed (built and nurtured) its reputation through traditional, digital and social marketing. It is a “people against dirty, happy clean world.” More than a half million people “like” them on Facebook… millions have viewed their fun and quirky videos on YouTube… and more than 16,000 (including Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos) follow them on Twitter. They are sharing data, exchanging ideas, building and managing relationships, entertaining and educating consumers. And they are doing it all for one purpose: to sell product.
Do you know what the difference is between a mom calling her child to come into the house for lunch (outbound marketing) and an ice cream truck chime box serenading the child to come to the curb for a cone (inbound marketing)? NONE. They both want to affect the child’s behavior.
On any given day, either one can be effective. Neither is necessarily better than the other. And neither has to be purely commercial. Just like print advertising can be used for a good cause (e.g., stop smoking), so too can social media be used to genuinely engage and educate for a good cause. But these deployments should not be confused with standard business marketing practices.
Enough with the nonsense and tomfoolery already. There is not a company in the world investing in social media for any purpose other than to sell products or services. Even (or maybe especially) non-profits use social media to seek donations and memberships and volunteers and more.
This is not to say social is not important or good or valuable. It is. As is digital and mobile. As is traditional. They represent tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars in annual expenditures… dollars that are being spent to educate and engage and nurture goodwill and build experiences that result in a return on the investment (aka, sales).
Let’s just say it out loud. It’s not a question of whether or not you are selling, it’s a question of how you are selling.