As we put together the community technology team's development agenda last year, it became clear to anyone actually listening, that the new online social would bring with it the need to evaluate standard marketing and brand management practices.

One question we often heard was, "can I use this to market to my customers". The answer was that online social networks (or social graphs, if you prefer -- Scoble's distinction aside) are changing the game, adding new tools, creating new opportunities, and so on. We'd often point out that central to the new game is the idea that you are -- or can be -- a participant in the conversation.

We thought this was exciting -- still do. Not everyone shares the feeling. For many, marketing is a set of activities orchestrated from behind the curtain against a target population -- it's white jacket clinical, safely creative, and anonymous.

I may be a little jaded, but I think this is the crux of the problem (from Josh Lovinson's blog):

Perhaps the one area where there is actually consensus among conversational marketing practitioners is the rule that marketers must first evaluate how they can add value to individual or communities before beginning a campaign.

Phrasing a list of value propositions is not the same as adding value in a conversation. The difference is related to broadcasting (or more kindly, informing) versus listening, responding, and contributing. I don't read Micro Persuasion because it tastes great and is less filling (or because I heard somewhere it included informed opinions, reviews, and insights into current and evolving trends). I read it because of those opinions. Someone might point out that Micro Persuasion is the product, and that due to the nature of the medium, it is it's own marketing vehicle. I would mostly agree. And that is why some traditional marketers are getting concerned.

To be clear, I'm in no way suggesting any sort of demise of the marketing profession -- far from it. Now is an exciting time to be in marketing. New tools, new attitudes, and an accelerating rate of change in both. What's not to like?

Here's a good post reviewing a recent conversational marketing conference. I'm sorry to report that I didn't get a chance to attend. But, many of the sessions were recorded and can be viewed here. Good stuff.