Making Triangles: Marketing Positioning for the Social Media Age

ValknutA lot has changed about marketing  in the last decade. And therefore a lot has changed about marketing strategy in the last decade.

But our theories of  marketing strategy have stayed strangely the same.

I have been waiting for a reasonable solution the these challenges for over a decade. And while I have been waiting, I have also been working on a solution of my own.

I have cobbled together what I consider to be the best of existing theory and thinking, and tested it through MBA classrooms around the world with some of the best students in the world. And now I have tried to unify it into one theory, a theory that balances accuracy with elegance to try to answer the following question:

How Should We Analyze Marketing Positioning in this New, Complex, and Multifaceted Age of Many Media (traditional, new, and social)?

The Answer, It Turns out, Is In The Interlacing Tri-Triangular Shape of an Ancient Norse Symbol: The Valknut.

Personal Brands and the Next Thing in Social Media Marketing

In January I started my MBA class in social media marketing and management at the Schulich School of Business and it really feels great to be teaching again. If you’re interested in the class, you can join our open to the public Facebook page, which is simply titled Social Media Marketing.

In today’s class we had an interesting discussion about positioning your personal brand. Of course, because it’s a social media marketing class filled with aspiring marketers, a number of people in the class were considering positioning themselves as social media experts (no, I don’t mean social media”gurus”, eek). So whatever the category they were interested in, whether it was a category manager, a brand manager, sales manager, advertising account manager, or even a financial professional, they were thinking about using “social media savvy” something like that as their point of difference that help them to stand out from the crowd in a way that would help them to be noticed and found relevant.

As we were discussing this topical an important point difference in class, it dawned on me that social media marketer as a descriptive term is becoming increasingly less unique and therefore less meaningful.

Gather round, children, for a tale from the origins of Web Age.

You see, when I began researching in this area, I was known as “an Internet guy.” Then I was a “virtual community guy.” And then “online community guy.” Then I was a blogging guy. And all the time, I guess I was a netnography guy. In the last few years, I’ve obviously been a social media guy.

And I guess that’s at the crux of my problem with all this. Because in the example that I gave to the class, I positioned myself as a social media marketing professor, and my point of difference was social media marketing expertise. However, when I think about it, that’s now a much more crowded space than it was a decade ago. And it’s getting more crowded all the time.

I think we are already at the stage, then, where social media and social media marketing are fragmenting into various specialties and subspecialties. First you could be an Internet person, then a Web person, a browser person, a new media person, a social media person, and so on.What will be the next phase of social media? Being a web analytics person. A community management person? A brand community designer? And online research community specialist. A co-creation and User-Generated Media specialist. A PR response person. A transmedia brand narrative storytelling specialist.

In other words, just as “Internet marketer” is a meaningless term because the Internet has become so diverse and complex, exactly the same thing is happening to social media. And that means that each day “social media marketer” is becoming less ad less meaningful.

The takeaway for smart marketers and marketing students concerned about their personal brand? If you are interested in this space, get knowledgeable and get specific. Find a cutting edge area, get skilled in it, and lead.

That’s the way to brand yourself. With a point of difference that is actually different. And that matters. And that will make you matter.

And what do you really think you can deliver on anyways: being “the social media person” or the “online research community specialist”? If you think the former, especially because it sounds vaguer and thus easier, I think you have an even bigger lesson to learn.

My advice? Social media marketers–Go Forth and Specialize.

The Return

Someone should do research on keeping up a blog. The ups and downs. The thrills and chills. The attention and neglect. Maybe there is already such research. I would be very interested to hear about it.

How life can sometimes get in the way of blogging. Darn that life thing. What nerve!

Well, I’m back and the blogging is easy. Tomorrow, my Social Media Marketing and Management class starts up again at Schulich for the Winter 2012 term. I am hoping to share lots of good material with all of you good people. My voice is back online. Let the fun continue….