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Social media isn’t magic

December 17, 2008

I think Web 2.0 tools offer people an excellent tool for connecting. For offering people an ability to share, if you will. And yes, since I’m a marketing guy, I think brands can use these tools to connect. And they are.

A tag cloud with terms related to Web 2.
Image via Wikipedia

So, at a recent Buffalo Tweetup, there was a discussion about some of the Web 2.0, or social media tools. Anyway, you can hear some of the discussion here, at the very excellent Shadow and James show podcast.

I want to talk about a moment that happened early in the evening, and is thus early in the podcast. We were talking about Gary Vaynerchuk, of Wine Library TV. A person at the table asked who he is, so I replied:

“He sells wine.”

Someone else at the event corrected me.

“No. Hold on a minute. He doesn’t sell wine. He has a wine company, but he uses social media to connect. There’s a difference between selling your wine, and getting on there and connecting.”

Before you think that this is me getting the last word in an argument, let me tell you that it’s possible that the person who said this is right. I don’t know the rules in the emerging field of social media. The only way we’re going to learn the rules is through testing (hat tip to Beth Harte). I do know that Gary V talks about social media and wine with a passion I haven’t seen in many people. So it’s possible that connections are more important than product/performance and price.

But I don’t think so.

I also think it’s important to say that he sells wine, and one of the tools he uses to sell wine is social media. This is clearly  semantics, but in the emerging field of social media, we get into trouble when we think it’s not about marketing anymore and it’s all magic and communities and caring. Yes, Gary Vaynerchuk has a video up right now that talks about caring.

That’s part of the charm. But, he sells wine. And he’s currently using social media to sell wine, and as he’ll tell you, he’s killing it. He does video broadcasts that are funny, informative, and especially authentic. But Gary appears to be an authentic guy. I’ve seen him speak live, and while that doesn’t make me an expert, I can tell you that he presents in person the same way that he presents on TV.

My point: the tools don’t make him authentic, the tools broadcast his authenticity.

That doesn’t diminish the tools. But even though Gary V is killing it using Viddler, that doesn’t mean any brand can go on Viddler and kill it. Partly because authenticity isn’t something that marketing, with the teams of people who execute it, can muster. (Note, this isn’t an argument against letting an agency do a brand’s Twitter feed. In my perfect world, it’s assigned to the copywriter who works on the business, and the copywriter is allowed free range to kill it)

Gary V sells wine. If Wine Library didn’t ship someone’s wine in time, or his wine was overpriced, people wouldn’t buy from him regardless of how entertaining he was on Viddler. Same goes for the famous social media example of Zappos. They have an excellent, authentic product that is amplified via social media.

Again, this isn’t meant to diminish the tools. like all things marketing, social media is great when things are right with the product. David Ogilvy, a famous dead copywriter said that a great ad campaign will kill a bad product faster. Because more people will try it and discover it’s bad.

The same is true with this new tool we have in the marketing toolbox. As a brand, make sure you have all the other stuff right before entering social media. Because if you don’t, you’ll find out fast. Get it right though, and you can kill it authentically.

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