Social Advertising

The development of successful social advertising/marketing programs is not only possible, it will be required. This statement has spawned an industry of social media vendors, tools and experts. The socialization of media is a true shift in control from media outlets to individuals and it is incredibly disruptive. As consumer attention is increasingly directed to nontraditional or social media, consumers using traditional media are getting harder to reach with marketing messages (thanks in no small part to TiVo). But the really interesting part about the shift to social media is that it is forcing marketers to reevaluate their relationships with individuals, in many ways for the better.

In a recent New York Times piece by Jack Hitt titled “Multiscreen Mad Men,” R/GA’s Robert Rasmussen put it pretty succinctly: “[It used to be] a brand could tell people what was cool because there was less freedom of choice in media. A brand could say, ‘This is the latest thing, and everybody’s doing it,’ and if the message was persuasive enough, you might believe it. Now you can check on that on the Internet and see whether everybody actually is doing it. Brands have become transparent, and that’s changed the tone of advertising. Now you have to try to be more authentic — even if it’s just authentically acknowledging that what you’re doing is advertising.”

So we are back at the beginning. Want a successful social marketing campaign? Build a better product. And then use the fact that social media is a two-way dialogue with the people you want to reach to ensure that you continue to outpace your competition in delivering what the market wants.

Then turn right around and use social media to spread the news of superior product and service like a wild fire. And don’t just hope a fire starts on its own and then let it burn itself out; provide the fuel and the match. Give people a reason to spread your message, then make it easy for them to do so.

Finally, use social media to ensure a continued positive brand experience, because people expect that every brand or product they engage with comes with a lot more than the tangible good, or primary service. Know the difference between a widget and an application (widgets are stand-alone content that can be taken anywhere, applications are less portable but tie directly into people’s existing social graphs) and know when your strategy might call for one or the other or both.

I think we can agree “The Widget Is Not A Strategy,” but packaging your content appropriately for social media distribution cannot be ignored. Still, as Bob Garfield pointed out l ast week and Brian Morrissey points out this week, it’s easier said than done.

When you hear people talk about successful and innovative marketing today, it’s most likely marketing that provided a service. Think about the implications of “marketing as a service” to the people it reaches. Marketing is inherently social. Brands are inherently social. There is no reason why they would not belong in social media.

I’ve been hearing that I can come off as though I mean to give agencies a “hard time” in these weekly columns. The reality is, I think the agency is going to hold the answer to meeting marketers’ needs in a world where people are in control of the messages they receive and, more importantly, the messages they share. The problem is that there is something inherent in the marketer-agency relationship making it hard for the agency’s role to evolve the way it should. I’m just here to provide sparks and


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