A couple of weeks ago Compete Inc., an online market research firm, wrote a blog post about the next wave of social networking and the role social commerce (or s-commerce) will play. Smart stuff - in a world where consumers have ultimate control over if, when, how and where they are exposed to marketing messages and the most important forms of new media are social in nature, we are well advised to empower the consumers themselves to spread our message, tell our brand stories and even drive consumer-to-consumer transactions. Today's press release about the research summarizes the point nicely:
"The challenge for marketers is to connect with consumers while they become disengaged with marketing. New s-commerce approaches recognize that the transactional and social web can be blended and that marketers can achieve commercial success by involving consumers in promoting and selling their offerings."
Now, this seems at odds with Jupiter's recent findings that 69% of consumers don't trust the product information they get on social media sites. But this particular stat struck me as odd anyway - where are you more likely to place your trust: A television spot? Or a recommendation from a friend?
It is important to distinguish between marketing messages seeded into communities by brands and their agencies (a tactic that is often inauthentic and one that community members can spot from a mile away) and brand stories that spread virally from person to person in a way that is both authentic and organic. The latter is nothing more than word of mouth for the digital age and word of mouth has arguably been the most powerful sales channel for ages. It is absolutely the right way to market in social networks, even if it means that we lose some control over what is said about our brands.
Focus on making your brand the best it can be, give consumers a reason to talk about you (as Seth Godin would say, "be remarkable"), then get out of the way...