How to tell if you’re in a dysfunctional (online) (B2C) relationship?

Reading the recent NYT article on Gary Vaynerchuk is both invigorating and exhausting.  The author, David Segal, really captures what it must be like to work around the hyper-engaged, always-on, self-proclaimed hustler, who uses social media to propel brands into the hearts and minds of customers.  But after all, isn’t this the energy that brands have to convey online to stand out in front of audiences?

Vaynerchuk advocates that a constant stream of microcontent is what is needed to reach niche audiences on social media, and that if done cleverly and persistently, brands will be rewarded with sales.

On the other hand, Spenner and Freeman argue in their HBR article: ‘To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple’.  Their research finds that we are all are overwhelmed with the excess of online content. Therefore, smart brands should focus on making sure the right information is available for the customer to find at their particular stage of the buying process.

Sure, social is a huge part of where customers might look for, and engage with content.  However, in this chart from the article, you can see the disconnect between the differing views of how marketeers should use online and mobile to connect:

What Customers Really Want

So have we all been wasting our time trying to forge B2C relationships online? Has anyone cracked the code yet on how to convert ‘likes’ to sales, in a truly sustainable way?  Both articles agree that too much of the same thing eventually makes it redundant over time.  Put brilliantly in a quote from Segal: ‘marketeers take methods that work and then beat consumers with them until numbness sets in, at which point the methods stop working.’

There is such a fine balance for marketing and social media managers to get right, while also staying top-of-mind.  How much is too much?  You’ll probably only know once you’ve crossed that line but lost some of your audience in the process.

That said, from traditional to new media, the rule from Marketing 101 has always been to know your customer.  Only then, can you understand their persona, buying journey and ‘relationship needs’ with your brand or product.

For example, I don’t particularly want to hear from my bank or insurance company, unless I decide I need their services.  It’s nice to know they’re there for me, but I have boundaries that need to be respected.  In their case, simplicity is key for our ongoing relationship, and I trust them not to test this by encroaching on my social media happy place!

For Oreo and Coca-Cola however, their brands are built upon emotions and being part of the social conversation.  So as long as this is working for them and their fans, I say, keep up the good work!