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Social Media Marketing isn't Customer Collaboration

Posted by on May 26, 2011

Telling your customers you want to engage and collaborate with them and then marketing to them are two very different things.  The concept of wanting to collaborate with customers sounds great and at first everyone nods their heads and says, “yes we want to do that.”  But when it comes time to actually doing it (collaborating) we oftentimes revert back to the idea of using social media to market or send out messages to our networks, not quite the same thing as collaborating with them.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with just using social media for marketing, but in my opinion it can be used for greater and deeper impacting business purposes.

Many organizations actually start out with social media marketing but then evolve to collaborating with their customers.  Social media marketing has oftentimes been a necessary first step.

Collaborating with customers isn’t about sending them offers, news, information, or messages.  Collaborating is about putting the customer at the center of how your organization conducts business, it’s about integrating the voice of the customer.  It’s about making business decisions with customer input and feedback.  It’s about listening to your customers and acting on the information they give you.  It’s about implementing some of their ideas and co-creating and developing products and services.  This is far more powerful then simply using social tools and technologies to get your message across.

It’s important to understand the difference here especially from an executive and decision maker standpoint.  Customer collaboration shifts how your organization operates and it impacts multiple facets of your business, social media marketing on the other hand leaves your organization as a whole relatively unchanged (or with minor changes).

So, when you say you want to collaborate with your customers do you really mean that or are you really talking about ways to use social channels to spread a message?

  • Peter Zmijewski

    Yup I agree with “Telling your customers you want to engage and collaborate with them and then marketing to them” this differ quote because social media is the best medium to make ones social network…Get more social at

  • Ben Willis

    Couldn’t agree more!  @SabaSoftware:twitter, customers, employees & partners come together to collaborate in a common community and all are loving it.   Not only does it allow for direct, 2-way communication across the Saba community, but dialog and voting in the IdeaLab allows for real-time innovation around organizational strategy & roadmap.  Win-win.  

  • “Collaborating is about putting the customer at the center of how your
    organization conducts business, it’s about integrating the voice of the
    customer.”  That is a fantastic quote and very true.

    I really enjoyed your article. Businesses can really get so much more out of the social atmosphere by collaborating with customers instead of just talking at them. People want more than just a discount, they want to be heard.

  • Relly clear and simple, I liked this article. Of course, moving a company mentality towards the goal of customer-centric business is another matter.

  • Affiliate Marketing Money

    Thank you for a awesome article.You have given me some ideas and a different way to to write articles.

    Affiliate Marketing Money

  • Thanks for sharing this informative post with us. I would
    like to look forward for another useful post from you. I recommend visiting
    http://  Social
    this helps.

  • the customers need to be your priority.

  • Hi Jacob, thanks for your article, it is very well-written.
    To set up this customer centric program concretely, the issue is quite deep, I think.We know customer collaboration program works, they are several use cases and examples to prove it. However most of the marketers are still afraid of setting up this project, as the gap between using social media as a channel and setting up this customer collaboration program is big to get the approval of their top management, who do not really understand the importance of this issue.Is there an intermediate step to boost customer centricity while minimizing the change management?

  • thanks for the post. appreciate your efforts!

  • The problem is that the two messages are certainly getting mixed together at the moment. What I am seeing is that more and more people are starting to help their customers with great customer care and engagement but as the community grows (and I am talking about big business here) other parts of the business see that community as something that can be marketed at and that is where the problems start

  • Anonymous

    It is important that they are fully assisted in their needs. Making a good customer relationship is a great profit of businesses. I like your post and it reminds me of a certain website which provides weekly poll votes for a short list of items particularly bags and pouches. An item with most votes is the one they are going to create and will be considered as their new product.


  • Good distinction.  I think social media for strictly marketing purposes
    is not the most effective way to use social media in the first place. 
    So even if you are not collaborating as you described, companies need to
    always engage with customers in a way that allows the customer to feel
    like the connection is of great benefit to them.

  • You know, it really baffles me sometimes how certain businesses survive. They are so reluctant to be “human”.

    What makes a marketer think that “Company X May Newsletter” will get someone to open an email?

    Or just because you have a Facebook page everyone is going to come visit it?

    Personally, the whole concept of “branding” really irritates me. You see a Facebook page littered with a company logo and cheese slogans. And someone thinks they’ve done a good job because it is beautifully designed.

    Here is my point: seeing things from a customers point of view isn’t an option -it’s common sense. So is using social media to get feedback and build trust.

    Why does it take so much to get business owners to understand this?

  • Marketing isn’t enough: social media allows customers to impact your product — applicable in marketing and in politics!

  • CMO

    I agree – collaboration is not sending offers to your followers or fans. I would say it is asking people what they wand and what they expect from our business. When posting messages they must care for people, not for the product you offer. And this will kill both targets in one shot – collaborationing and marketing.

  • Wow!!! Jacob this is an amazing blog I have ever read…..Good work. I agree with you that collaborating with customers is not the same as spreading the information to the customers. Many people use the social media as a tool to spread the message to their customers. It is good to collaborate with customers in order to have success in the business…..

  • I agree, CMO. Collaboration is the best way to listen to the suggestions of your customers, and the most efficient avenue to collaborate with your consumers is through social media sites. You can initiate a personal conversation, or you can create a group conversation with different types of consumers. This way, you can clearly explain your product’s benefits, and build up your product’s reputation.