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The Social Media Best Practice that Transforms
Marketing into a Change Agent

By Eric Fletcher
Chief Marketing Officer at McGlinchey Stafford

Ask a dozen professionals from a variety of endeavors to define marketing, and you will likely receive at least a dozen variations on two or three different themes. Retailers, B-to-B enterprises, service providers, Fortune 500 companies, and entrepreneurial start-ups—and everything in between—often view, plan, and budget for marketing from unique perspectives.

But all of us, unique perspectives notwithstanding, need our marketing investments and adventures to do one thing: contribute to a change—in awareness, in behavior, in loyalty, in habits, or in routines.

You may not view marketing as an agent of change, but consider it. Regardless of the deliverable, from a single effort to an entire campaign, marketing is designed to instigate some type of change in the status quo. It may be about transforming a target into a client, expanding a customer's use of your product/service line, creating awareness, or deepening loyalty to a brand. But effective marketing is, at its core, an agent of change.

Enter "social media."

I don't believe any single solution is the holy grail of marketing, but the so-called "social media" options present marketers a new level of access to a critical dynamic of change—the oft overlooked (or ignored) element of dialog.

Simply put, dialog is the lifeblood of enduring change. One-off decisions and temporary digressions can be precipitated by an event, an incentive, or a compelling message. Dynamic campaigns can certainly win customers. But lasting change—the kind that lies at the heart of repeat business and customer loyalty—is the byproduct of feedback, conversations, and the dialog attendant to shared experiences. And "social" provides a platform for numerous approaches to each of these activities.

We have long recognized the potential impact of word-of-mouth marketing. Get satisfied clients/customers talking about their experiences with your products or services, and the marketing game changes. No longer is it the voice of the company extolling benefits; customer-originated messages have authenticity. Shared experiences resonate.

Add the element of actual real-time feedback, and you've tapped into a social media marketing best practice. Now you're building relationships. And relationships trump everything. We trust what is uttered in the context of a relationship. Conversations that allow for questions and answers, musings, what-ifs, and even the airing of a problem, this kind of dialogue is the DNA of relationships that grow and thrive.

So when you wonder about the role of social media in a marketing strategy, how to introduce the idea to leaders in your company, or what the best practices might be with respect to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, remember the seed that eventually gives rise to the most pervasive and enduring change your market will ever know.

Today's game-changing marketing plans create shared experiences, encourage on-going dialog, and build communities with clients and prospects.

Eric Fletcher

Eric Fletcher is the CMO at McGlinchey Stafford, a national business law firm. With 200 attorneys operating from eight offices across the U.S., he is responsible for all aspects of marketing communications and business development for the firm nationwide. With more than 30 years in marketing and communications, Eric has produced successful radio and television programming; served as a partner and creative director with an award-winning advertising, marketing, and public relations firm; and counseled a number of the leading professional service organizations in America. Eric is a member of The Social CMO, an informal consortium of several individuals who have embraced social media and the opportunity it represents for advertising, PR, sales, and marketing.