The Revolution In An Eye Blink

John Battelle (author of “The Search”– covering Google’s rise) recently described an experience that vividly shows how quickly the marketing landscape is changing given the impact of social media.  I’d recommend anyone involved in the advertising and marketing world read his account, as a powerful reminder to become fully immersed in social right now to stay relevant as the landscape shifts. In his post, Battelle recounts his recent visit with GM CMO Joel Ewanick, whose marketing group offices feature a real-time video wall with a constant stream of consumer conversations related to the auto maker on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, as well as breaking posts and articles. During the visit, Battelle asked about a Facebook post that had just appeared on the video wall criticizing a local GM dealer. Ewanick casually related that his team would quickly engage with that customer and respond as part of their normal process of doing business, and sure enough Battelle later followed up and saw that the team had rapidly engaged the detractor- expertly addressing the customer’s situation.

Customer Complaint- and GM response- July, 2012

Battelle described his perspective on this and the implications for marketing:

As someone who has spent many years visiting CMOs in tall buildings, I can tell you, this is nothing short of a revolution, and it’s happened in what amounts to an eyeblink in our business….In the normal course of business over the past two weeks, I’ve met with half a dozen Fortune 500 CMOs – men and women running massive marketing businesses for some of the best known brands in the world. Every single one of them now takes the idea of “conversing with customers at scale, leveraging technology” as a north star. It’s an extraordinary shift.

Two to three years ago– according to Battelle- the average CMO was no where near this point: still held back from actively engaging consumers via social by concerns that it was too much of a risk and not worth the investment. I would add that many have been tentative in the past– and many are still holding back today– because they personally don’t use social media (I’ve written in the past about Forrester’s conclusions that CMO’s are inexperienced with Social and that fact is impacting its effective use in Marketing programs).

Right now, the playbook for how to execute marketing and advertising programs in the modern social world is being completely re-written.   As a marketer (or an agency exec, or anyone involved in the media world), social media now needs to be the center of your existence.  You need to live it and breathe it, in order to be an expert on how to execute it across an organization.  This is now your job one.


John’s digital experience dates back over two decades, to before the web was born. He is currently VP Marketing for Advance Digital, and is a regular writer and speaker on topics including Search, Social Media, Content Marketing, Local Media and the Digital Marketing Revolution.

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