Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blending is more than integrating Facebook with Twitter

Do you ever stop to think about how much blending we do? We wear clothes so that we can blend in with others in our profession (I wonder how many business people have begun wearing hoodies thanks to Zuckerberg). We blend make up into our faces so that it looks like we're not wearing make up. We blend different kinds of alcohol to make drinks (or so I hear). Indeed, we are all blending machines. So why is it that we are not successfully blending our marketing efforts?

Blending requires more than one ingredient

A lot of people have begun talking about blending different marketing solutions, but the questions that I am seeing reflect a lack of understanding about what blending means, exactly. I see questions like, "How can I blend Social Media with email?" "How can I blend efforts on different Social Media sites?" "How can I blend Social Media with SEO?"

Notice a problem? The questions aren't really asking how to blend. The questions are about how to make Social Media 100% successful as a stand-alone tactic or how other "subservient" channels can be used to support Social Media efforts. This is comparable to saying that you want to learn how to make cookies, then asking if it's possible to make cookies with just chocolate chips and maybe a little bit of flour. Some people do indeed believe that Social Media is now the most important part of any marketing campaign, but the whole cookie is what the experience should really about.

Update Twitter and do other stuff? I'm overwhelmed.

For some, the idea of trying to mix anything with Social Media is terrifying. Indeed, some find this concept so intimidating that they wait to jump into the Social Media pool. The way that Social Media experts can get around this, in part, is to point out a lot of automation techniques. That's not auto-posting or auto-direct messages, mind you, but there are ways to kill multiple birds with one post. FriendFeed, Tumblr, Networked Blogs -- all of these things sell the idea of posting once, and then, just like when you blow on the fuzzy white petals of a dandelion, your ideas will float everywhere.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately since I love my job) there is no easy way to integrate an entire marketing campaign, not to mention an entire company. There is no "IMCFeed." There is no magic button (Sorry Staples). This is not a reason to despair, however, or to limit yourself or your company to one channel and one channel only. There are ways to save time. There are ways to make it all happen. You just need to make sure you have your eyes and your ears open, right along with your mind.

I've talked a lot about ways to maximize concepts and creative input. To get your engines going, take a gander at this post outlining 30 ways to use a single paragraph of copy.

Blending Thoughts and Philosophy

Equally troubling is that there seems to be more, not less, of a tendency to separate people, positions, or departments that should really be blended together. In part, I think this is because all of us have so much more access to information tied specifically, in a niche kind of way, to what we do. Customer Service specialists can immerse themselves in books about customer service. Social Media managers have a treasure trove of books they can read about any number of facets to the Social Media story. We are building each facet of marketing as its own fortress where no one else may enter, and that fortress is built upon beliefs regarding how we should do things.

This is something we must put a stop to immediately as marketers, as business people.

There are lots of ways to begin this process. Have a marketing person (yes, even an agency person could do this) shadow sales for a day or customer service for a day. If your PR department is separate from your advertising department, have a couple of people shift positions for a week. One of the easiest ways to build barriers is failing to grow understanding. If marketing has no idea what the sales department is facing, and if the opposite is true as well, how are they ever going to be able to meet and move forward as a single unit? Answer: Can't be done. Sales needs to understand why some marketing concepts may be more about branding and less about lead driving. Marketing needs to understand that ROI is what makes the world go round. On and on it goes.

As we experience each others' problems and obstacles, as we familiarize ourselves with what our peers experience on a day-to-day basis, we will be able to offer a fresh perspective. From that point, where thoughts are geared towards productivity and efficiency, blending, leading to integration, can begin.

Time to blow someone's mind

The next time someone asks you how to integrate Facebook with Twitter, Social Media with SEO, or Social Media with email, consider answering the question in an unexpected way. You could say, for example, "I have no idea, but I'm integrating my print campaign with email, my trade show presence with Social Media, and my product development department with customer service." They'll never see it coming.

Image by kasey albano. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/superfloss

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