Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"It's Social Marketing B#tch"

For those that choose not to listen to the uttercast, I'd like to provide a little more color commentary around the title of this post. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to do a podcast with Dennis and Aronado of Lucky Startups. During the show, Dennis and Aronado were looking at the site (the company I work for) and saw that the messaging on our site talked about "Social Commerce."

The short version behind the term is that as Powered was evolving from an eLearning company to a social marketing company, they were looking for a term that captured the essense of "social" but also differentiated them from being a "tools" play. "Social commerce" seemed to make sense but obviously wasn't exactly the right term. As a result, our current site still reflects the old messaging but we are in the process of updating the site so that it reads "social marketing" vs. "social commerce."

Following the podcast I did with the Lucky Startup boys, their mention of "social commerce," spurred my good friend, Adam Cohen, to throw out the question, What's the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the term "social commerce? A few people chimed in and their answers were pretty harsh (Ed Illig and David Schuette's in particular). At first, I was a little put off by the responses but then immediately realized, I would have had the exact same reaction if I were in their shoes. So rather than stew, I decided to take a humerous approach and record my thoughts this AM on my walk down to Starbucks.

That brings us to the title of this post which is a humerous play on comedian, Dave Chappelle's "I'm Rick James, b#tch." During his show, Chappelle loved to play the aging, disrespected Rick James who needed to let everyone know that he was "Rick James, b#tch" and how dare anyone disrespect him. I thought it was apropos given the fact that I didn't want to come across as defensive as I was explaining that Powered doesn't do "social commerce" but in fact builds successful social marketing programs for well-known companies like Sony, HP, iVillage and Motorola, to leverage that same approach.

To that end, next week there will be no more mention of "social commerce" on - I promise! Thanks for the inspiration Mr. Cohen! ;)

Mobile post sent by astrout using Utterlireply-count Replies.  mp3


  1. Sounds like you've made an immediate impact at Powered, Aaron. Good for you!

  2. Thanks Scott. I'm trying. The good news is that Powered already had a great team, product and stable of customers when I joined. I'm just here to put the icing on the cake!

  3. Aaron,

    So glad you're off to a great start at Powered (well deserved). It's amazing to me the power of semantics in this space. Truly. Even the "social media" term is a misnomer, if only in its interpretation. It's the underlying philosophy of the practice that matters, but we haven't found good labels for it yet. I love that you're open minded enough to be experimenting and paying attention, if nothing else so we can accurately communicate to the fence-sitters how very important this approach is to the future of business.

    Cheers to your newfound success!


  4. Hey Aaron,

    First off, as always, you are really good about making your point and responding. I love the analogy to Rick James too...the funny part is that this was taken a bit out of context. Some clarifying thoughts for you:

    1) First, I missed your podcast with @aronado entirely yesterday - I had no idea about the tie-in on "social commerce vs social marketing" to Powered until twitter pal @kenburbary mentioned it after my question. I agree with everything you said to clarifying the term and the services Powered provides. I also love the term "social engagement" - especially if there is a way to measure or index that.

    2) Last night I was working on a blog post around better clarifying a definition of social commerce and was using twitter to get thoughts from folks. I hadn't read much in the history and just dropped in to ask the question, "What's the first thing that pops in your mind when you hear the term 'social commerce?'" and I received quite a number of cynical responses. That reinforced to me some clarification needed on the definition and I hope to have that published soon.

    3) I think there is a serious space for social commerce, especially with the evolution of how retailers and online merchants are leveraging social tools to engage customers. (Don't forget, I'm a partner in our Consumer Product and Retail practice at Rosetta). Just look at the success of fellow Austin-based company (and Rosetta biz partner) Bazaarvoice - they even host a Social Commerce Summit annually. Companies are starting to bring the conversation to them through social tools on their site - different from broadening selling off their site, which was how the term social commerce came about a few years ago. (I'll clarify in my post soon).

    Long story short: sorry for the misunderstanding - I wouldn't hesitate to call you out for some jabbing on stuff like this - and I hope vice versa, my friend...But this one was truly coincidental.

    Keep up the great work at Powered!

  5. Great response Aaron and I appreciate the back story Adam.

    I wonder if we'll look back on this and think social commerce is actually an acceptable term. A lot of the value in SM in retail IS what is best described as "social commerce." When I'm checking out a product at Amazon, I spend a lot of time digesting peer reviews (and even jump to other ecommerce sites to look for trends in what people are saying). Is "social marketing" a better term for that experience? I'm not sure.

    The negative reaction to "social commerce" as a term might have to do with a perception that it's manipulating the buyer/shopper with social inputs. But from the buyer/shopper perspective, the ability to consume/contribute to a product page is a huge benefit, IMHO.

    To me, "social marketing" is about getting someone to the point of purchase. "Social commerce" is about giving them information at the point of purchase to make the right decision for them.


    Jim | @jstorerj

  6. @Amber - thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated.

    @Adamcohen - great chatting w/ you via the phone this AM. Soooo funny that your comment and the mention of "social commerce" on the LSU podcast were coincidental. Interesting that you are diving into this topic professionally (which btw, in the case of our friends at Bazaarvoice -- a fellow Austin Venture portfolio company -- that term totally makes sense.

    @jstorerj Great to see your comment on my blog this AM. just like old times. Well-made points all the way around. Thanks for chiming in!

  7. I did have a harsh response to "social commerce", but I think justifiably so. The reason I said a recommendation from a friend was dangerous is because I was thinking of a disingenuous recommendation like or the uproar over Beacon for Facebook. Yes, a recommendation from a friend is powerful, but interjecting directly into the social correspondence taking place is not a good thing. Ads on the side of Facebook, okay. Ads interjected into the newsfeed, anger. Tweet about a cool product, I'll check it out. Have it done from some system, I'll stop following you.

    The bottom line is that when you go to a social event you do not expect to be sold to. Sure, it may be sponsored by a company, but is interrupting that interaction with some speech about your product a smart thing to do?

    The larger issue I see here is that word of mouth is really the strongest type of advertising a company can get. "Social Media" has made this so much easier to do. Is it really worth destroying that powerful tool by blasting the people with an advertisement? No. Make it easy for people to talk about your product, don’t do it for them. And also, try and find one person who gets a warm and fuzzy feeling about the word “commerce”.

    Just my thoughts.

  8. Aaron -

    Wow had I known that this would kick off such a serious look into the phrase I am not sure if I would have brought it up on the show. I am glad that some good came of it. I think that is a great company and that you gave some really great tips to our audience on how businesses can contribute and benefit from social platforms. Thanks again for doing the show.

  9. Dennis - I'm actually glad you mentioned "social commerce" during our show. It just reinforced in my mind that we need to clean up the messaging on the website ASAP (even though @adamcohen and @jstorer have made compelling arguments FOR "social commerce." Thanks again for having me on the show. It was a blast!

  10. Aaron - I'm more than a little late to this party, but it's an interesting discussion so I thought I'd jump in nonetheless.

    I don't see anything wrong with the term social commerce, although I agree that it's not really well-suited to Powered. The way that I've heard Sam Decker from BazaarVoice describe it, social commerce is about providing tools/services that facilitate customer-to-customer conversations. The "social" part refers to enabling c2c conversations and "commerce" is the "why companies provide these tools." The key distinction is that it's all about customer-to-customer, rather than company-to-customer. Once you think about it from that perspective, it's not really that different than what people have been doing at cocktail parties and water coolers forever (just accelerated by technology).

    @David - I think your distinctions of acceptable and unacceptable word-of-mouth are right on target. I don't think there's anything in this definition that contradicts it though. It's not about companies/employees shilling. It's about companies making tools available to the their customers so that they can engage in conversations about the company.