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September 29, 2009

Social Media: We Have Sinned

It’s time to atone.

Some may appreciate the timing, as it coincides with yesterday’s observance of Yom Kippur, Judaism’s Day of Atonement, the climax of a period of repentance. Everyone has some sins to atone for, including marketers and agencies trying to engage consumers through social media. Today, we’ll confess.

On the Day of Atonement, one of the most memorable prayers is a short confessional where a series of sins are listed alphabetically in Hebrew. It’s unlikely anyone reciting the confessional has committed all such sins over the past year, but one recognizes that these sins have been committed. Some sins listed are so broad, such as scorning and sinning willfully, that most likely everyone will have committed them.

Below is our confessional, for marketers and agencies. Similar to the spirit of the liturgy, we haven’t all committed all of these sins, but most of these transgressions should be familiar.

We Have Sinned

  1. We have awkwardly applied metrics like click-through rates to social marketing programs when we could have found more appropriate ways to quantify results that aligned with our business objectives.
  2. We have bribed consumers to be our friends without devising ways to connect with our real fans and sustain communication with them.
  3. We have ceded control of our social programs to interns, or lawyers, or those who are not in the best position to be the faces and voices of our brands.
  4. We have deceived ourselves, falling in love with our ideas without considering what would provide value for our target audience.
  5. We have eavesdropped on consumers, instead of actually hearing them and listening to them.
  6. We have failed to monitor social channels for discussions of our brands and competitors.
  7. We have guessed at our target audience’s interests and activities rather than conducting research that could have provided real answers.
  8. We have hurried into the newest, most-buzzed-about social spaces without developing a strategy.
  9. We have imitated when we could have innovated.
  10. We have judged competitors harshly for making the same mistakes we made.
  11. We have killed ideas that were spot on in favor of pet projects that we wanted for our portfolios.
  12. We have lost consumers by organizing social architectures that were impossible to navigate coherently.
  13. We have mismanaged social marketing by shoehorning it into someone’s job description.
  14. We have neglected to integrate social marketing with broader marketing programs.
  15. We have overreached, hoping for content to go viral without investing in resources to properly create, distribute, and promote it.
  16. We have partitioned our organizations so rigidly that we can’t plan earned and paid media together.
  17. We have quarreled over who should own social media in our organization.
  18. We have repurposed creative and messaging from other channels when we should have adapted or created it for these social spaces.
  19. We have shortchanged social marketing by planning campaigns instead of ongoing programs.
  20. We have tuned out consumers’ criticism when we could have engaged with them to better understand it, or we could have learned from it to ensure other consumers wouldn’t have such problems in the future.
  21. We have undervalued and underfunded social programs to such an extent that we have set them up for failure.
  22. We have violated consumers’ trust by not being fully transparent as to our identities and objectives.
  23. We have wronged consumers by not respecting their privacy.
  24. We have xenophobically avoided any forms of social media beyond the ones we use ourselves.
  25. We have yelled when we could have conversed.
  26. We have zigzagged between the path we knew was best and the path that was most convenient, even when we could have prevented our transgressions.

Acknowledging these sins is not the same as absolving ourselves of them, but it is the first step on the path to repentance. What we can hope and strive for us that next year, should our community as a whole revisit this confessional, the transgressions will seem more alien — a memory of how we were and a sign of how far we’ve come.

David Berkowitz is Senior Director of Emerging Media & Innovation at digital marketing agency 360i. You can reach him here.