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Why You Should Read Your Wife’s Facebook Page

Just so I don’t waste anyone’s time, this is a digital-marketing-related post. I know the title might seem racy–especially coming from a tool such as Twitter, where article titles spread quickly. But it’s a good one, so please read on….

Last week I had an onboarding with a new Marketing Director on one of our long-time businesses at Bridge Worldwide. As agency folks know, these can sometimes be tense affairs. We worry about what the new leader will think about our historic work, and pay close attention to how he or she might shift gears on everything we’ve been doing to date. And for a digital agency like ours, we also closely pay attention to how much the new client is engaged in this new media. Sometimes you find that a new client is ready to leap three steps forward on the digital playing field, but it’s just as likely that the new guy or gal will wonder why we’re not spending more on TV commercials instead.

In this particular meeting, it didn’t take long for our new client leader to start sharing his beliefs–mainly because we cleverly put an agenda item early on in the meeting titled something like: “Mr. Client Shares His Beliefs.”  Like many traditional marketers, this particular client admitted that he is still learning about how the digital space is evolving, but certainly wants to crack the code quickly.  Then he said something that I had never heard before; it went a little something like this:

One of the things I do to learn how our consumers are using digital and social media is to read my wife’s Facebook page. When I do this, I see the kinds of things that she and her friends are talking about–and it’s usually not brands or marketing. My wife and her friends talk about their children, plans for the weekend, hobbies, and reactions to what’s in the news. So if we want her to talk about our brand, then we need to do something that connects our brand in some meaningful way to what really interests her.

There are a few things that made this comment remarkable in my mind. First, it is an example of a marketer who understands that the answers don’t come from expensive research reports and fancy insight graphics–they come from paying attention to what people are doing and saying, even in your own home.

The second lesson here is the admission that many of the brands we work on are usually not chat-worthy on their own. Despite our desire to “join the conversation” and put up Facebook profiles for our brands, the reality is that we are competing for attention against topics that are much more engaging than whether our new product formula is 20% better. We have to admit this reality and talk about it openly.

And, finally, I love his point that we have to “do something” (i.e., not just talk) that connects our brand in some meaningful way (i.e., ties to higher-level needs).  This is exactly what I’ve been preaching here for two and a half years.

There is nothing better than working for a client who is strategically smart, is wise enough to admit he needs to learn, and commits to working with agency partners to crack the code.  This story is an important lesson for any marketer who is struggling to figure out the future of marketing, and shows how in small ways you can inspire agency partners to help you lead the way.

4 Responses to “Why You Should Read Your Wife’s Facebook Page”

  1. Chip Tudor says:

    Bob,

    This was very well written and great insight by your client. I particularly liked your observation of the importance of connecting your message/product to something that is meaningful to the consumer. As a copywriter, I find this to be the challenge in just about every writing project. Connecting a message to the audience in a way that is meaningful to them. Think I’ll pass this link on. Thanks.

  2. Jeff says:

    I’m surprised to hear you devalue the role of formal research in planning a social media initiative. Your client finds insight in his wife’s Facebook page, and you affirm “answers don’t come from expensive research” — but doesn’t Bridge offer research services?

    Do you recommend doing formal research in addition to casual observation of friends and family?

  3. Bob says:

    Good, challenging question, Jeff. I think you really missed the point though. Let me clarify…

    First: Yes, we sell research services at Bridge. But, no, you don’t have to purchase research services from us to gain valuable insights about your consumers and what is important to them. Guess what? You also don’t have to hire an agency (like ours) to come up with great creative ideas or strategic plans. And you surely don’t have to hire a special agency to “monitor social buzz”–Google alerts and Twitter search work great, for free. There are things that we agencies can do to help organize the data, generate ideas, or improve results. But the bottom line is that I’m not writing here just to sell my company’s services, and I’m not afraid that I will hurt my business by pointing out how marketers can help themselves. This is practicing the Marketing with Meaning that we preach.

    Further, my overall point is that we need to step back and think about how to connect brands to what is important to consumers. Research can help uncover deeper insights, or help to maximize the impact of what we decide to do to connect people to brands. But I think you are mistaken if you believe that professional marketers cannot uncover insights based on their personal experience and consumer knowledge. This is why they get paid the big bucks, have graduate degrees, etc. And just because I believe that marketing professionals can do this to some extent without agencies’ help does not mean that I am “devaluing research.” Rather, I am valuing smart marketers.

    And, at Bridge, we don’t “sell research for a living”–instead, we “help our clients connect with their consumers” for a living. Sometimes our research services help achieve this goal, and sometimes a smart blog post (like this?) that helps train marketers to shift their perspective helps achieve this goal.

    If we continue to pretend that insights or great ideas can only come from paid research studies, then we will have a much tougher time actually convincing marketers to take a different path. Or maybe you are afraid that marketers will cut our budgets if we don’t maintain some facade of research as a magical process that must be dogmatically applied? If so, uh, good luck with that.

    (On a side note, multiple clues cause me to suspect that you may be in the research-selling business. If so, it would have been nice for you to disclose this, just as I regularly disclose my own potential biases willingly and proactively in my posts and comments. This is a pretty common, morally-responsible behavior in the social media space.)

  4. Jeff says:

    Bob, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    Just to clear up any misunderstanding, although I do work at a research company, my intent was definitely not to sell research! I was speaking from the perspective of a planner/designer who’s sometimes challenged by working on projects that lack meaningful user insights. My apologies for not being proactive in mentioning that connection.

    My objection is really about your comment that, categorically, answers do not come from “expensive” research. To me, that devalues the role research can play and implies that research projects are typically costly. The intent of my question was just to draw out a more balanced statement about the role of research.

    I do think it’s dangerous for marketers to rely too much on their own perceptions of what people want and how they behave online. If you have a graduate degree and years of experience managing a brand, then you should have some understanding of your customers. And if your wife falls squarely in your target demographic, then you have a focus group of one right inside your house. But if your market is constantly changing, or if you want a more holistic view of the market, then you might need to be more intentional and formal about your research.

    Also, you might be satisfied with the insight that most peoples’ online worlds do not revolve around CPG brands, or the fact that brands need to make meaningful connections with their customers. But then again, you might need deeper insights into your customers’ unmet needs or their online behaviors to come up with a meaningful marketing plan.

    I’m not trying to say that formal research is the only source of insights, just that it’s a valuable source that a lot of people needlessly avoid.

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