Anyone who's been in marketing for any length of time knows that marketing success requires making a connection with your audience. To do this, you first need to understand what's important to them, and more importantly you need to speak their language. It used to be in years past that marketers would broadcast or disseminate a message around what they wanted their audience to know or hear rather than the other way around. In today's socially mediated world however, that approach doesn't fly. Even the term audience, is somewhat antiquated.
Marketing is now centered around conversations that relate relevantly within personal, social and cultural engagement because you can no longer 'talk at' people, you have to interact with them. You have to connect with them based on their needs and interests. Of course, this is nothing new either, as most research analysts can attest. Market research traditionally dictated the approach and strategy of ad campaigns. But today, research is conducted publicly on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, and may even replace the need for paid focus groups one day. Maybe. But again if all advertisers try to do is gain more followers or gather free metrics for the purpose of manipulating buyer behavior, they've missed the whole point of what social media is about.
No, it's not a magic bullet, or bag of tricks, and simply adding a fan page will not make you instantly credible. That's pathetic. Let's be smarter than that. But the potential is there, nonetheless, and yet somewhat ambiguous even to the 'experts'. Still I like to think of it as a virtual greenhouse for growing brands into pop icon status the likes of which have rarely ever been seen.
But don't just drink the Kool-Aid. Embrace the principle and merge it with what we already know.
For instance, Apple didn't become what it is today through clever persuasion, but by purposeful participation; by listening and then doing. They relinquished control and allowed the consumer to take ownership of the brand. Anyone who ever bought an iMac or iPod first bought into an ideology, or way of looking at the world, way before the emergence of social media, or it's stellar customer service for that matter.
Humans are creatures of habit, and although the world has changed, we really just find new ways of doing the same old things. Marketing today is not so much about an audience or demographic, but the way a brand fits (or doesn't fit) into our global community of socially connected circles both online and off. So when you begin to lose touch with your customer, and your customer with you, the relationship dies, regardless of where it began, and so too does your bottom line.