Shifting Focus From The Traditional Marketing Funnel To Personalized Messaging Using Social Media

There’s a lot of confusion about social media these days, and old-school marketing professionals aren’t making it any easier.

More and more companies are waking up to the fact that they can connect with their consumers via digital channels with more impact and for significantly less budget than traditional television, radio and print approaches. As a result, agencies and marketing professionals are being asked more frequently by executives how they can “use social” or get social” by engaging in the social space. The problem arises when traditional marketing professionals approach social media and social networking in the exact same way that they approach traditional channels like TV and print.

Assuming that you can take the same approach for traditional and social is like assuming that you can use a hammer just like you use a screwdriver. The are completely different tools that require different skills, different motor movements, and are used to accomplish different goals. And yes…Web sites are “traditional” regardless of whether they are digital are not.

Take the traditional “marketing/sales” funnel as an example. This theory is endorsed by traditional marketers everywhere and invariably turns up on presentations and PowerPoint decks across the enterprise. Just take a look at the search results on Slideshare for “funnel” and you’ll find gobs of marketing and sales presentations based on this principle.

The concept of the marketing funnel is that you can market to the masses, hope you’ll attract the attention of some, and then really, really hope that you’ll attract a few customers. Basically, a LOT of money spent to generate a few leads for even fewer actual customers.

The traditional marketing funnel used my marketers for print, television, and radio

The traditional marketing funnel for print, television, and radio won't work for social media.

The problem, however, is that in order to use social media appropriately, “traditional marketers” are going to have re-learn everything they know. Social media networking is based on the concept that the relationship with the individual is more important than marketing to the masses. With this fundamental mind-shift required, my experience is that most traditional marketers are unwilling to “unlearn” their years of training and experience to learn something new. As a result, they’ll simply try to apply their “tried and true” marketing tactics to social networks, which will fail miserably.

So why the big shift? Because social networks have opened up the opportunity for consumers to easily share their opinions of products, brands and services and statistics clearly show that consumers prefer to purchase based on recommendations from family, friends and peers than they do based on marketing material. In their article Friending The Social Consumer, Nielsen reports that:

  • More than 40% of consumers go online to check reviews and consumer feedback before purchasing consumer electronics.
  • 60% of those going online have visited a social network, with half going back everyday according to Facebook.
  • 23% of social network users expect companies to listen and respond to what is said online

Add to that, the fact that consumers trust their family, friends and online product reviews significantly more than product marketing web sites, news reports or television and you can begin to see a shift in how consumers are starting to consult and listen to their social networks when it comes to making purchases.

Consumers Trust Thier Friends, Family, And Online Reviews When Making Purchasing Decisions More Than Television, News, Or Product Web Sites

Consumers Trust Their Family, Friends, And Online Reviews When Making Purchasing Decisions More Than Television, News, Or Product Web Sites

So what? Consumers don’t trust traditional marketing channels as much as they do their friends and families. What does that mean for marketing professionals?

It means that they have to stop marketing to the masses and learn how to use social networking and social media channels to build relationships with individuals through personal messaging (both online and in person). They have to start focusing on building relationships with people who can spread the word about their brand and make positive impact on the purchasing decisions of their friends and families. It means that they have to forget what they know about “the funnel” and literally turn it upside down.

The new model of social media messaging will need to replace the old social media marketing funnel

Instead of marketing to the many, try building relationships with those that can become advocates for your products and services and spread positive messages to their peers

As shown in the graphic above, brands and organizations need to appoint community managers whose job it is to listen to the online customer community and develop clear, concise messaging that does two things:

  1. Solve problems of brand adversaries to reduce the negative sentiment
  2. Offer value to the brand ambassadors and advocates, so they can spread the word about the value of the brand to the agnostics (basically, anyone who doesn’t know about your brand or who hasn’t made a decision between brands)

Before you can execute the Ambassador/Advocate/Agnostic pyramid, however, you have to devote time and effort to the shift by:

  1. Identifying your community
  2. Listening to the conversations within the community
  3. Understanding which users are your Ambassadors, Advocates, and Agnostics
  4. Understanding which users are your Adversaries
  5. Crafting a strategy and messaging to help amplify the positive messages of your community
  6. Implement business process changes to resolve the issues identified by your Adversaries
  7. Engage with your Adversaries with messaging to assist with their issues

It’s not going to be an easy shift and some marketing professionals will hold on to the notion that they can continue to spend millions of dollars on mass-marketing campaigns via television, radio, and print that continue to see diminishing returns. These same marketing professionals will have to explain to their clients how these efforts will be worthwhile when:

…or maybe they’ll just ride out the rest of their careers and dump the responsibility on those who take their positions in the near future…


  1. […] understand that consumers of all type rely on product advice gained from other consumers, and the value of marketing Web sites that expound on the value of their product is diminishing. Need more convincing? Take a look at the Answers section of LinkedIn and you’ll find thousands […]

  2. […] = Marketing  – DON’T look at social channels like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as sales channels. They aren’t. They are engagement channels where you listen to, and communicate with your […]

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