How the Merge of Personal and Commercial Relationships Changed Marketing

img-youtility-bookLike never before in the history of business, our personal and commercial relationships are merging and entangling, line for line, pixel for pixel. When I looked at my Facebook news feed recently, the first thing I saw was a status update from my friend Chris Moody, a community manager for the software company Redhat Linux, about his son: “In less than a month, my little man will be 1 year old. Crazy how fast it has gone by! Dad Life.”

Next, I saw a post from marketing automation software company Marketo, promoting a blog post titled “How to Get More Out of Your Content Promotion.” I am drawn to this post because it incongruously uses a photo of Honey Boo Boo as accompanying artwork.

The next item was from my wife, who was being particularly forthcoming about the new schedule she will have when school starts for our kids. “Not doing well with this getting up early thing,” she writes. “I think we’re in big trouble when school starts in a couple of weeks.”

Completing my cross section of four consecutive news feed items was another photo, this time from the New Media Expo conference, linking to a compendium of blog and podcast coverage of their recently completed event.

Let’s recap. My Facebook feed looked like this: Friend… Company… Spouse… Company. I’ll bet yours looks somewhat similar, as, according to 2012 data from Edison Research, 76 percent of American social media users have “liked” a brand on Facebook.

What you have is an intermingled mixture of information that matters to you because of personal relationships, and information that matters to you because of commercial relationships. It’s not just Facebook, either. Twitter works the same way, as do YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, e-mail, blogs, and podcasts, too.

For the first time, companies have to compete on the very same turf as our family and friends, using the very same tools and technologies and media and messaging as consumers.

My wife doesn’t buy radio ads to try and get my attention. My friends don’t buy newspaper ads. My pal Chris Moody does not buy outdoor advertising or try to optimize his content so that I see it. But the opposite is most definitely true. Companies are now invading the spaces and mechanisms that we’re using to connect personally.

How can today’s marketers be heard in this new era?

Colossal shifts in how, where, and why consumers access information have made a new, third marketing method possible: frame-of-mind awareness. I call this friend-of-mine awareness because it’s predicated on the reality that companies are competing against real people for the attention of other real people.

To succeed, your prospective customers must consider you a friend. And if, like their friends, you provide them real value, rather than simply offer a series of coupons and come-ons, they will reward your company with loyalty and advocacy, the same ways we reward our friends.

Youtility is the smart way to market

Youtility is a critical important alternative to traditional marketing: Youtility. Not “utility,” because a utility is a faceless commodity. Youtility is marketing upside down. Instead of marketing that’s needed by companies, Youtility is marketing that’s wanted by customers. Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.

The switch of intregrated personal and commercial messaging created the need for marketing to be useful. Not just a little bit but massively useful at particular moments in the life of the customer, and then fading into the background until the next opportunity to help arises.

There is no courtship, ramp up, or slow build with Youtility. You’re either sufficiently useful at any given moment, and thus can connect with the customer, or you’re not. It’s real-time relationship building. Are you ready to be a Youtility for your customers?

Excerpted from Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype by Jay Baer. See for other resources.

About Jay Baer

is a hype-free social media and content strategist & speaker, and author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype. Jay is the founder of and host of the Social Pros podcast.