One of the worst mistakes anyone — but specially marketers — can make is creating a reality based on their own assumptions, neglecting data, past experiences or even behavior they (fail to) see daily. Well, this information I spotted on Mitch Joel's blog may shock the most sensitive social media professionals:
In a study of 7,000 consumers and marketing executives representing 125 consumer brands across 12 industries, CEB identified a significant disconnect between current marketing strategies, including customer engagement, and preferred consumer buying behavior. While most marketers are behaving as if the majority of consumers are open to having a relationship with their brand, CEB found only 20% of consumers report being open to such relationships.
Ouch. Does this mean we're all working towards something that's not true? Well, not really. By reading this, I hope you'll have concluded by now that all marketing issues are never black or white. Therefore, the question is not about how engagement will solve all marketing problems or how social media will save your crappy product or service.
Strategy is hard because there's no clear answer, no matter how background information you may have on your target audience. In the age of transparent communications, it's increasingly important that both (marketers') expectations and (consumers') reality align themselves towards a common goal.
Don't think you know what your consumer wants, because consumers are dangerously volatile. It's better to provide something your consumer actually cares about than to develop your ideal vision of a social media presence for that consumer. Specially because that vision is ultimately not up to you.