I read a very interesting article over the weekend in the online edition of the Ottawa Citizen. The article was discussing the results of an anthropologist's study of how email, texting, and Facebook have changed the breakup ritual for university students. The study is called "The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media" and it's published by Cornell University Press. It's a fascinating and revealing insight into how students use social media to research people they have interest in, or how they communicate (AKA flirt) with people they may like, and how they break up with people once a relationship ends.
Personally, what I found the most intriguing, is how students read into the most subtle of changes (i.e. - a status update, an update to a list of interests or hobbies, a picture posted online) and attempt to extrapolate what is being implied (even if nothing is being implied) and then act based on the assumption that their extrapolation is correct. I was exhausted just reading the article and could only be grateful that I was happily married and didn't have social media influencing my dating experiences when I was a student.
Of particular interest to Marketers was how the study revealed social media was applied differently based on the nature of the relationship. Quoting from the article "Relationships evolve in a series of stages involving different types of technology. Contact on Facebook indicates casual interest followed by texting, which is more personal. Going from texting to phoning indicated even more seriousness." Doesn't that sound to you like a lead generation campaign? Add email to the front of that flow and you've got an impersonal impression all the way to a very personal impression. The trick is, when do you know when the right time is to move from one stage to another? Well, it seems, there really is no standard set of rules.
Again, quoting from the article, "Even more interesting to Gershon as an anthropologist was that while the students believed that there were right and wrong ways to do things, they couldn’t agree on what was right or wrong. One student, for example, asserted that when a couple breaks up the dumpee gets to make the Facebook announcement — and added that everyone in her sorority thought so, too. Others argued that both parties should tell their friends in person or over the phone before they made the breakup 'Facebook official.' Or that the honours went to whoever could get to their Facebook page first.'People were clear on the rules. Just not the same rules,' says Gershon, an author and assistant professor at Indiana University."
What we do know is that people engage using different mediums. You need to have content that serves them using the medium they prefer. We also know that once people engage, they keep on going back to that medium to move the relationship along. All of this points to the needs, as a Marketer, to introduce the idea of marketing automation; you can add lead scoring, and lead nurturing, relative to prospect behaviors. In other words, if they like emails, then the lead nurture can keep on emailing them. If they like phone calls, then the lead nurture can keep on calling them. Further, the engagement level, and the associated score, tells you if what you're doing is working or if you need to try a different form of engagement.
Looking at it another way, as a marketer, or as an anthropologist, you'd better have great lists and the ability to segment them sufficiently to reach them in a manner, and with a message, that sends the right engagement signals.
If not, you might find yourself un-friended faster than you can spell Breakup 2.0.