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What the annual Christmas card teaches us about social media

It’s that time of year when many of our friends and family send their annual recap, a Christmas card, or pictures of the family. Some of them are verbose and take pages, while others may just be on the front side of a card. It’s a great tradition and gives us a chance to reconnect with some that we may only see once a year. For the past several years I’ve created a version of an annual card that I’ve sent electronically to my distribution list.

Golden Retriever Brady

This was the picture with the most "connections"

My wife has used the traditional method of creating a photo, buying a lot of cards, and then mailing them via postal mail to a separate distribution list. (Our distribution lists do intersect). This year though, it occurred to me that there is a powerful and distinct advantage in using electronic media such as facebook, email, twitter, website, online photo album, etc.

Electronic distribution of a message is more likely to create a two way communication event

I used both email and facebook this year to distribute a link to an online slide show (7 slides) of my family. As in past years people responded with comments, general hellos, warm wishes, and updates of their own. Many of the responses came within minutes of when I clicked the send button. It was a microcosm of social media and one-to-one marketing right before my eyes. As I thought about it, when people view the message online they have the ability to quickly respond with a return message. It’s a quick action that doesn’t require them to change what they are doing or create a reminder to respond later. The reply is simple, short, and finished quickly. Think about that and let it sink in….

Traditional distribution of a message requires the receiver to create a purposeful event for a response

If you’re like me, then all the annual recaps and Christmas cards are placed together in a collection tray after I read them. My wife actually keeps the entire stash each year. (I’m not really sure where she puts them, but that is a topic for another day.) The only cards I’ve ever responded to that come through the mail are those where I see the sender in person sometime later. For me to respond via phone, postal mail, or even email would require that I stop what I’m doing and then create the communication to the sender. It’s not that I don’t want to respond, but since it requires a change in action or some kind of planning it just doesn’t happen very often. It’s not simple and can’t happen on impulse.

Lessons for marketers

People really do like interaction and a connection. Life is about relationships right? If we believe that then why do so many marketers still question the value of social media? When people are online with a computing device as their tool, they have the ability to respond immediately to some action. It’s an impulse decision. It could be a product review, a survey response, a product purchase, a ‘like’ rating, or even a response for service. Above all it’s a connection and relationship builder.

Now don’t hear me say that traditional print and push marketing is dead. Postal mail, television, and radio are still here and will be for the foreseeable future. My point is that marketers need to understand the power of new media and the advantages it offers over push marketing. If you do it right, you’ll find that customers really do like to talk and respond. The concept of relationship building isn’t new. Sales is built on relationships. Our lives are centered on relationships. So why would some marketers reject social media channels because it doesn’t add ‘value’?

  • I really like the thought process behind which “medium” to choose for the “content.” Not only does electronic delivery create an opportunity for interaction, but the “electronic card” can travel farther than a paper-based one. The odds are that one of your Facebook friends is connected to someone who you’ve lost touch with. This person will see your update (through your friend’s profile) and possibly seek to reconnect…something that would have been impossible with the paper-only approach.