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November 7th, 2011 · No Comments

“The social web will be the most critical marketing environment around.”

Larry Weber, p.14

That much Larry Weber had right in his 2007 bestseller Marketing to the Social Web: How digital customer communities build your business. But how have his insights kept up to through the past 4 years of social media shifts?


The evolution of marketing and social media

As Weber points out, companies still need a good product and good content if they are to be successful online marketers. This much will always hold true.

However, as the chart below shows,  social media and the ability to share information instantly has changed:

  • · the company-consumer and consumer-consumer dynamic
  • · how marketers segment and target their markets
  • · how product reviews are conducted
  • · the role of the advertiser and publisher

Taking Weber’s “Old” and “New” Marketing into the Current Decade


Old Marketing

2007 New Marketing

2011 Revolutionary Marketing

Segmentation Group customers by demographics Group customers by behavior, attitudes, and interests- what’s important to them. Group customers by behavior, attitudes, interests, and how they use technology and social media.
Reviews Think Michelin Guide: the experts weigh in. Think Zagat or Amazon: user review and vote on everything. Think Chowhound: independent sites set up by the public for the public.
Advertiser/Publisher role Publisher establishes channel and controls content to gather an audience for the advertisers who sponsor channels or programs. Build relationships by sponsoring (not controlling) content and interaction when, where, and how customers want it. Reacting to public interests and feedback to create a dialogue between consumers and the brand e.g. Old Spice responses to consumer letters.



The role of Marketing and Marketers

The web has not role of marketing: it’s still about defining your target market, communicating with prospective and current consumers, and building trust and loyalty. However, Weber argues that a marketer’s role has changed from a “broadcaster” pushing information out, to an “aggregator” who brings together content and communities. He falls short of foreseeing a shift from push- to pull-style marketing, where consumers take the initiative to find information relevant to them. Pull-style marketing goes a step beyond his “aggregator” vision of collecting information, to consumers actively seeking the information they want.

In “Old Marketing” companies controlled the content, however, with the advent of blogs, discussion forums, and other social media tools, consumers have much more power and control. Weber argues that, rather than attempting to control their customers, companies must create opportunities for their customers to be part of the publishing process by incorporating two-way communication tools such as blogs into their websites, and by sponsoring sites pertinent to their industry. While he addresses independently created community forums such as facebook, twitter, yelp, etc., he doesn’t foresee the extent to which these sites would overtake company controlled and sponsored blogs to become the place where consumers turn for trustworthy advice and consumer ratings and reviews.


Targeting and segmenting your market

Weber speaks of the importance of segmenting and targeting the market by behaviour, including website behaviour. Since 2007, software technologies have become far more sophisticated in tracking user behaviour, allowing the advent of technographic segmentation and data mining that he could not have possibly imagined. Companies must include this type of segmentation into their research in order to decide how best to incorporate social media into their marketing strategy.


Company strategy and social media

Weber recommends companies integrate social media into their online strategy. However, what the most successful companies will do is integrate their online and social media strategies into their overall marketing strategy, which works in conjunction with their business strategy and company goals. Social media and websites cannot be a separate aspect, but an integral part of how the company’s message is disseminated and how the company interacts with consumers.


Seven-steps to using social media

Weber outlines seven steps to creating and executing a social media plan. While many of the steps still apply, the order and sophistication in which they are accomplished has shifted.


Weber’s definition

Adapted to today

1. Observe & create a Customer Map Understand:

  • · who’s talking
  • · on what sites
  • · relevant hot industry topics


Use this knowledge and your company goals to segment the target market.


  • · Understand why people go online & what their technological use patterns and preferences are
  • · Use this knowledge to adapt your strategy to their needs & habits


2. (Recruit)
  • · Has been moved to step #6


2. Identify your marketing goals n/a
  • · Understand what your company wants to achieve from the online tools they choose


3. Evaluate Platforms Decide which marketing tools will be most effective in achieving your goals. Some platforms he recommends are still in use today e.g. blogs, though others have changed, disappeared or evolved. Decide which marketing tools will be most effective in achieving your goals. Today, these tools may include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, etc. 
4. Engage Build relevant content to get the dialogue going. Today, the “Creators” may get the dialogue going if you don’t, or even if you do! So make sure the content is relevant! 
5. Measure Decide what you want to measure, what the relevant metrics are for your business, and how to measure these things.  Define what success will look like, then understand the various tools available to help you measure it.
6. Recruit Use your Customer Map to recruit key people who will talk about your company, it’s products, and what you’re doing that’s new and different 
  • · Today’s lingo: identify your “Creators”
  • · Ensure search engine optimization


7. Promote Get people talking This one never gets old, so:Get people talking!


8. Improve Make it more convenient, useful and friendly… … and keep up with the trends of what new social media tools people are plugging into- but remember to first evaluate if and how it can be used to get you closer to your goals! 


Costs of marketing

Where Weber falls short is in saying that marketers must build online communities in order to “cut marketing budgets” and “reach people more effectively” (p.19). Yes, if social media is successfully incorporated into a company’s overall strategy, it can reach people more effectively, however what is saved in not using traditional media is paid towards labour for creating online campaigns, responding to online consumers in real time, and monitoring what consumers are saying on blogs and independent review sites. So really, the costs have simply shifted to internal labour and have not disappeared if social media is to be used most effectively.



The foundational principles in Marketing to the Social Web: How digital customer communities build your business still hold true. A good product and good content are key, and the shift from companies controlled messages to consumer control is continuing to occur.

However, consumer use of technology is becoming more sophisticated, so companies must take this into account as they align their social media strategies to the marketing plan and company goals.

While the social web is still a critical marketing environment, it must be used strategically. The evolution continues…

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