Downtown Abbey to Silicon Valley

This is a rough transcript of some thoughts I shared at the #SNDebate last night discussing “Are Social Networks a distraction for marketeers”?

I am not the first marketeer, or I am sure the last, to compare the arrival of the telephone circa 1914, with the mainstream phenomena of social networking in the 2000s.

"But the telephone is here now, and the girls got used to it when we were in London. So will you take care of the telephone man?"

The arrival of the telephone in Downton Abbey

BUTLER: But why would we ever want a telephone at Downton, milord?

ROBERT:  Well they have their uses?  You could speak to the housekeeper in London.  That’d be helpful surely?

BUTLER: I hope I have not failed in my management of the recent move?

ROBERT: Not at all.  But the telephone is here now, and the girls got used to it when we were in London. So will you take care of the telephone man?

(Downtown Abbey, Episode 7)

By performing a similar exercise to Tac Anderson in his post (“It is my source of power”) I have seen what I would have missed out on without the “distraction” of Social Networks. I would never have had conversations and shared thoughts with professional heroes of mine in the digital world like @briansolis @farisyakob @tacanderson @prgeek @guykawasaki

 I would have never got married to my amazing wife…., when she lost my phone number before we had arranged our first date

I never would have hired the talented @davidrussell_

 My friends in London and ex-colleagues I almost certainly would not still manage to keep in touch on a regular basis @mikemath @jimdowling @strickers @njhenderson @stevecater

 I would not know the daily chronicles of my little nieces and nephews growing up out in Montreal…

I am a different, more knowledgeable, more socially adept person because of the conversations I see and am able to play a part in on social networks.

 For people like myself who are comfortable in social networks we can be a million times better at our jobs because of the knowledge we can cipher through the many millions of brains whirring in those communities.

 But doesn’t being a very active participant on social networks distract from the other things in daily life you ask? 

 I don’t think so – ask my wife, my son, my employers.  I think they’d all say I devote plenty of time to everything offline, but am more able to be a conduit for an incredible knowledge and power source online because of my energetic role in social networks.

 Knowledge and influence are the key power sources in the 21st century and right now one of the most direct routes to both is via social networks.

 That is on a personal level, but what about for brands, are social networks “distraction” for them?

 No, social networking is about as much of a distraction to brands as having a telephone for those staff at Downton Abbey in 1914….

 If you use that telephone to make costly calls to random people in Australia it will cost you a lot of money and provide no ROI.  If instead you use that telephone to call your business contacts, leads and customers with whom you need to communicate, then you will build trust, earn money back and be viewed as good communicator because of those calls made. 

 Any marketing channel – advertising, traditional PR or direct mail – invested in with no strategic sense of the outcomes that you desire is a distraction from your business goals. 

 With the telephone the main business goals are usually:

  • customer service,
  • pursuing sales
  • the distribution and acquisition of knowledge that is valuable for the company to know or share. 

 You will measure the overhead of your phone bill against one or all of these 3 elements. 

 It should be a similar consideration for the money you invest in social networking. 

 Invest being the operative word, because like libraries, databases and my son, well-managed brand social networks grow and grow and grow and grow. 

 And more people on your side in a social network means:

  • more knowledge for your brand,
  • more influence for your brand,
  • more evangelists for your brand,

 … and so more ROI.

And never forget people buy and invest in people they like and trust, it is the same for brands.  One of the greatest means for brands in 2011 to demonstrate both qualities is via social media interaction.

 So are marketers distracted by social networking: only ones that live in fear or awe of them or those that view them as tactical not strategic investments. 

 Should brands not invest in social networks because it could all be a bubble that will burst I’m asked?

 That’s like saying should brands not have invested in advertising on milk cartons for three decades, pre-empting the possible future arrival of QR codes, ads in other forms of media, ads around video content and direct mail.  Marketeers must make wise decisions based on the communication and promotion channels available to them at the time, whilst of course always watching out for the latest innovation.

 And on that note I’d like to leave you with three stats to chew over (nicked from all over the place!):

 Facebook – ‘The top reasons people press the ‘Like’ button on Facebook is to have a sales relationship with a brand – either to receive promotions & coupons (40%), get updates on upcoming sales (30%) and show their support for companies (39%).’ – ExactTarget 2010.

Twitter – ‘For over 40% of the time people are on Twitter, we spend it learning about products and services, listening to what others have to say and giving opinions. That explains why over 20% of the time we’re on Twitter, we’re ready and willing to buy directly off Twitter.’ – Edison Research 2010.

Social Networks – ‘For every hour we spend on online, we spend the most amount of time on social networks, almost 15 minutes of every hour. Roughly half of the time (approx 6+ mins), we are seeking out products and services and looking to have a sales relationship with brands.’ Nielsen 2010.

 Webtrends have calculated the average brand loyalist who ‘likes’ a brand’s facebook page spends $71.84/year more than a non ‘liker’.

#SN Debate hosted by Lucre Social, 1 June 2011


Jono Marcus
Group Director of Social Marketing and Online Strategy, Lucre Group

Perveen Akhtar
UK PR Manager, Intel

Jeremy Hillman
Editor, Economics and Business for BBC News

Ash Ali
Marketing Director, Videojug

Jon Morter

The man who used social media to make Rage Against The Machine #1


One thought on “Downtown Abbey to Silicon Valley

  1. Following up on Canada’s recent election where everybody, including the mainline media, got caught with their pants down when the people of Quebec elected what is now known as Jack Layton’s new daycare, otherwise known as Canada’s official opposition, i believe this discussion will soon be carried over into the political arena where social media, and its consequent branding, will soon come to dominate the post-modern electoral process where feelings about where to put your own ‘X’ will eventually trump any kind of objective assesment as to who the hell you’re going to trust to run this chip-stand for the next four years…possibly eight and after that, who the hell cares anyway.

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