Why Marketing with Social Media is like Playing a Theremin

Posted on by Chris K | 1 Comment »

All my fellow Dr. Who geeks are familiar with the otherworldly sounds of the theremin, the very first electronic instrument. But have you ever seen it played?

The artist never touches it – they simply stand next to it, making a series of almost imperceptible motions, as if they were coaxing the music out of invisible air currents. It’s so wonderfully odd, subtle and incredibly nuanced. The music is created

by a series of tiny adjustments and heavens forfend the musician should sneeze.

Like many business folks (maybe you, too) I’ve been trying to find balance with social business and social media marketing. As marketers, we’re used to pushing information out – new content we think our audience will be interested in, upcoming events they may find valuable, industry news and new opportunities that will help them compete, new products we believe will benefit them. It’s all good – we do need to do this. But social business enables PULLing people in to participate, to share ideas, criticism and feedback, to help us serve them better.

Finding balance is a challenge. I’m constantly discovering myself PUSHing with heavy-handed determinedness – like trying to play a theremin with a sledge hammer. And unfortunately, I’m far from alone. I think we need to take a minute once in a while to consider if our audience may feel as if they are being beaten mercilessly about their heads by our marketing messages.

I read a wonderful article last week on The BrandBuilder Blog by Olivier Blanchard, “Social Business vs. Social Marketing: Understanding the fight over ‘content’. He says,“The problem is simple: Marketing professionals see the marketing opportunity in these powerful new channels – as well they should. Their reflex is to do what they know, which is to adapt their marketing thinking to the social space… It’s their job after all…“Push” has always worked everywhere else, therefore it will work in the social space as well…The problem, however, is that digital social channels are not solely marketing channels. In fact, they are mostly not marketing channels. They are social channels… As such, they favor dialog rather than monologue. Publishing content and creative might be seen as a conversation starter, but it is not in any way, shape or form a dialog. It is a monologue through and through. And there is the rub.”

And what a rub it is. So I’m going to put down my marketing sledge hammer once in a while and try to take a more nuanced hands-off theremin approach. I’ll make mistakes, but Pamelia Kurstin didn’t learn how to play the theremin overnight either.  (Tell me how I’m doing – comments always welcome)

One Response to “Why Marketing with Social Media is like Playing a Theremin”

Comment from Theremin World
Time May 3, 2011 at 12:18 pm

An interesting comparison, but I like it! I highly encourage you to read the book “The Thank You Economy” for help with the hands-off approach of social media marketing. The premise is that you should take a genuine approach to wanting to help people sold problems related to what you’re marketing or learn more about it, and the business will follow naturally.

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