Defining "social," part two

Today's entry is going to be completely different than what I had planned all because of a lunch meeting I had yesterday with major media mogul.  It does follow the theme, however.

I approached the first part in the context of the trade show, and how the current generation of customers is more comfortable with social media than traditional media, and I'm going to continue that is part three.  But my lunch conversation yesterday was very enlightening.

An independent survey for a major media house showed that the electronics/semiconductor industry sector is the worst in transforming leads into sales.  In some cases, companies participating in the survey had no idea if any leads developed in any venue - advertising, PR, direct marketing or trade shows - had been developed into sales.  Now that's pretty amazing considering that every company I know and have worked with translates marketing success into the accumulation of leads.  This is more than a breakdown of the marketing process. This is a breakdown in basic communication.

For decades, it was assumed that marketing efforts drove sales and that could be proved by the discussion around companies in the media.  If a company did well, or poorly in its sales, it was reported in the media.  That was true for both public and private companies because when the media was flush with advertising revenue, the news of major deals for private companies were necessary to fill pages.  The public discussion of industry news helped fuel sales.

But we have lost that vibrant media due to significant loss of advertising revenue for publication, who have dramatically cut editorial staff.  They no longer have the time or space to report sales of private companies, so the buzz about particular companies dies.  They don't get sales, acquisition offers or venture funding.

This would not be true, however, if companies had a mechanism for understanding where the breakdown in communication is.  Social media is not going to help any company that just wants to push out information in exchange for a business card or a badge scan that will be used to impress the CEO.  Those kind of companies are just going to burn through capital unless they learn to converse.

There are only three or four marketing people I've ever worked with in 20 years that understood how to get that kind of conversation going.  They drove sales departments and were consistently hated by sales VPs because the marketers demonstrated that sales were dropping because sales staff weren't following up on leads developed by marketing.  The ironic outcome in these cases were the marketing execs were often fired at the behest of the sales VP, or they were put under sales altogether.

So to bring this together, "social" means interactivity.  It means engagement and it takes more effort then most companies are willing to put out.  At least for now.