Social Media Isn't Relationship Marketing. So, What Is It?
There is a great article written by Naomi Dunford at Copyblogger titled "7 Ways You're Screwing Up Relationship Marketing". Naomi makes some excellent points about a common misconception people have regarding social media. Many people seem to think social media is the same thing as relationship marketing, or that brands need to follow the same rules as people to be successful in this medium. Well, it's not, and they don't. So, if social media isn't relationship marketing, what is it?
Social media is a broad term for a variety of web based tools, applications, and sites. These can be used as the staging grounds for tactics, but not as a replacement for strategies. For all of the different types of social media, there are numerous possible tactics such as customer support, branding, R&D, promotions, product announcements, and many more. None of these are relationship marketing; however, many of them can be used towards that end.
Having a Twitter account isn't relationship marketing, but using a Twitter account for customer support definitely is. So is that the only thing you should use Twitter for? Does your social media campaign have to be relational? No. That's just where people see immediate potential. I think as the social media industry continues to grow we'll find that many companies are able to use it profitably in ways that aren't relational at all. That being said, the internet inherently lends itself to relationship marketing. The abundant access we now have to consumers makes it exponentially easier to focus on customer satisfaction rather than point of sales.
For individuals, social media brings a whole new wave of things like authenticity, transparency, and 24/7 connectivity. Does it do the same for brands? No. Naomi does a good job of pointing out that unlike people, brands don't have to be authentic or transparent to be successful. For brands, social media is a new tool and a medium, nothing more.