In his book, Social Media Explained, Mark W. Schaefer compares our current social media marketing to the community markets of Medieval times. Then he compares that with the mass market advertising of the 20th Century and offers insight into how to look at Social Media.
So what do farmer’s markets, broadcast and print advertising, and social media have to do with each other?
Two of these depend on person-to-person connections. I think it’s obvious which ones. I’m going to borrow from Schaefer’s book for a moment…
Imagine being in one of those old community markets. I assume that most of us have seen or read about them in historical fiction, movies, or TV shows. But, maybe some of you have been in foreign countries where such markets still thrive.
Anyway, you’ve gone there to purchase food most likely. But you’ll also encounter sellers offering jewelry, housewares, medicine, livestock, pets. Pretty much anything you or I would go to our local shopping mall to acquire.
Your interactions with the sellers are face-to-face. The vendor tries to convince you to buy and you haggle over the price. But you’re not only interacting with businesses – the market is also where you’ll hear local news and gossip, catch up with friends and acquaintances. You might even make your own lucrative business arrangements with people you’ve just met on the street.
The Market in the Palm of Your Hand
Now – if you’re like the more than 1 billion people who are on Facebook – this description of the street market is pretty much like your Facebook experience. You not only connect with your friends and business associates, you LIKE brands, products, events, pages. In other words, you’re sharing your attention and connection with vendors. And Facebook is just one venue for social media marketing.
So hold that picture in your mind while we look at “traditional” mass market advertising. Going back to Schaefer’s book, he puts the beginnings of modern marketing to the first ads broadcast on radio in the early 20th century. I think this change in marketing goes even further back. Print advertising in newspapers. The Sears catalog. Either way, this shift away from the local, one-to-one marketplace to mass market, one-to-many advertising is new in human history. Now businesses could reach thousands, eventually millions of potential customers, efficiently and frequently. As children of the 20th century, this is what we’re used to. Watching television commercials, listening to radio ads, throwing away the Val-Pak along with the stack of junk mail.
So the next time you’re baffled as to why you need to how to use Social Media to connect with customers, think about your local farmer’s market. It’s actually right in the palm of your hand.