The number one question I get when I talk to marketing people about social media and online communities is “what’s in it for me?” My response? You should care because soon it will be a standard component in your marketing mix. And it won’t be an option for you. Think of it as the next generation website. The key difference is that your next generation website will help you drive sales and create deeper customer loyalty and increased prospect stickiness. The era of brochureware is coming to an end. That’s what’s in it for you.

As soon as you help a marketer start to put a business context around social media and online communities, you begin to see the creative juices start to flow. It’s almost magical to see the transition to wow. The moment of wow is when the marketing possibilities around social media and online communities begin. It’s the moment they begin to appreciate how they can use the medium for building stronger business relationships.

Turning the moment of wow into marketing objectives and creating quantifiable business value begins by defining what you want to achieve. This is no different from any other part of your marketing mix.

Some of the objectives in a business to business marketing program might be:

  • Create a trusted environment that fosters conversation and engagement. This is not a time for brochure copy.
  • Create a way for our trusted members to help and share with each other.
  • Offer content on a continuous basis that helps drive independent conversation.
  • Create content that helps you learn how people use your product(s).
  • Create a learning opportunity to learn what people want to do with your products and services.
  • Create sticky value that provides a competitive advantage.
  • Create micro-segmented communications opportunities to expand marketing foot print.

These aspirations will help you drive increased “relationships” to your brand and company. Robert Van Arlen thinks of this as a way to have your clients sing about you. Effectively, you are able to transfer the value of the “Wow” to customers and prospects at all levels.

The fastest growing segment of the social media market is around providing trusted business to business engagement. Social media is thriving because people have always engaged with each other. It’s a natural part of human communications. We naturally engage each and every day with our spouse, children, family, friends, neighbors, golfing friends and business associates. Although Facebook and MySpace get the coverage, they generally are not trusted by adults, unless of course you are looking for a date, want to check out your favorite band or have time to surf. For the majority of adults, they are not willing to “expose” themselves to everyone. I think that people like LinkedIn because they only share their resume or CV with the world.

Unfortunately, we as adults have many sides of our life. And you want to be in control. Businesses are always looking for ways to extend their capabilities and engage their customers and prospects in ways that result in higher retention, lower risk, increased ROI, and greater operational capacity.

Social media and online communities will be standard parts of your next generation marketing mix. Off the shelf products are now available to help you get started and learn. It will not cost you an arm and leg to experiment. You’ll find that this is a world that you will be operational in weeks.

When will you have your moment of wow?