Prove It All Night… Or Not

I can’t help but think of Bruce Springsteen when talking about social media because of his song, “Prove It All Night.” It’s not so much the lyrics (although you could make the case for a loose analogy on winning the ephemeral “love” of a customer), it’s the title.

Companies have so many channels and opportunities created by social media to honestly communicate and actively prove why (and sometimes why not) their product or service stands above other competitors. The active engagement that is necessary is what contrasts how things used to be done with the surface-visible sheen of advertising and printed pieces.

Back in the day (before 2005), businesses spent untold tens of thousands writing, editing and designing some static and barely useful “look-how-great-we-are” tomes that had no more use or relevance than day-old newspapers lining birdcages. How long did writers labor over every word, weaving a narrative on how wonderful said company was, while artists suffered over the layout of trying to put a human face on an organization that didn’t dare, nor really care, show it real face?

Social brought to a close to what I call the age of “collateral damage”, as well as the websites that took their place, employing an array of devices to display a company’s plumage, rather than the feathers that give it flight. Social changed everything.

But not for everybody.

We’re well into Web 2.0 and so many businesses still don’t (and maybe never will) understand how using the Internet and the overabundance of social media tools can help them connect with their audiences.

Maybe they’re not meant to be.

Do a quick search for advice on how to best differentiate products and services and you’ll get widely divergent answers. Some praise the advantage of product benefits and personal relationships. Others think warranties, guarantees, uniqueness, service, and the customer experience are trump cards. And, yes, some people believe that low price alone will win the day.

I believe that most products and services, even in highly competitive and commoditized markets, can be effectively marketed. But a good percentage will never put the effort into finding what makes their offering distinctive and look for the correct combination of marketing and social tools to locate, attract and share their knowledge with the right audience.