Is Social Media Marketing Fundamentally Disingenuous?

“But they don’t really want to be your friend; they just want your money.”

I’ve heard it before. With all the focus on engaging customers through their personal lives, some people react to the very concept.

They make a valid point—they absolutely do. Business do have a profit motive and if there was no money to be made in social media marketing, they simply wouldn’t do it. So that’s the end of it, right? The naysayers win?

Not quite.

The key is in being likable. You almost always hold that key. But that wasn’t always true. Before TiVo you had to listen to commercials. Before satellite radio and streaming music you had to listen to commercials. Your newspapers and magazines are laced with ads. This is what is often called linear or “megaphone” advertizing: you have to listen or really stick your head in the sand.

But in no small way the younger generation has demanded customization in all aspects of life, right down to what ads they are exposed to. This is where social media comes into play. They can choose to let companies have more exposure towards them. I cannot emphasize enough that they the prospect, is choosing.

If a company tries to take advantage of that, gets too pushy—bam, they lose their likability and their influence. It is a very tight feedback cycle.

So I would argue that no, while there are some companies in social media who are not really engaging because they are clinging to their old megaphone habits, the fact that engagement and likability forces companies themselves to change in response makes the relationship ultimately serving to the end-customer. It is actually a signal of the end of over 100 years of one-way communication.

It should be embraced.