Posts tagged “Social Media”
Are commercials leaving TV?
Something is changing, slowly and steadily. Have you noticed? Commercials are moving online as videos, and they’re spreading virally.
An online “commercial” does not have to be exactly 30 seconds or 60 seconds, the way they are on TV. No one cares. In fact, when they’re funny and entertaining you almost don’t want them to end.
This is a major breakthrough. Think about this stunning fact: Volkswagen paid NBC approximately $3.5 million to run a 30-second spot of barking dogs during the Super Bowl. What’s the cost for running a spot online? You guessed it, zero. Production costs are production costs either way, but free air time is the astounding, revolutionary breakthrough.
Some advertising history.
Ad Age sets the date of the first newspaper advertisement in America as 1704. (If you look at a European timeline, it could go back to early Rome.) When advertising first hit the pages of newspapers, it was something of a revelation: you could reach far more people via print than other methods. Online advertising – a very recent phenomenon – is still working out the kinks. But it could change everything.
The options for getting the word out way back when were limited. You could hire somebody to wear sandwich boards or paste posters on walls. In both those cases, your advertisement would only be seen by people who were in the physical vicinity of your signs. Newspapers, however, went far and wide, and were also shared. They proved to be a far more effective method of getting the word out.
And so it progressed, first with the addition of radio and then television. While folks who faithfully listened to early radio shows might grumble about the “announcements” that interrupted their shows, the reality was that there would have been no shows at all without the “sponsor.” Ideas for radio shows were either sold to sponsors or they never got past the idea stage. Television was the same – no sponsors, no show.
The cost of advertising.
Advertising has always had a symbiotic relationship with media. First newspapers, then radio, then television. And that relationship was based on CPM: cost per thousand. The CPM model refers to advertising bought on the basis of “impressions.” The total price paid for CPM is calculated by multiplying the CPM rate by the number of CPM units. For example, one million impressions at $10 CPM equals a $10,000 total price.
1,000,000 ÷ 1,000 = 1,000 units // 1,000 units X $10 CPM = $10,000 total price
To drill down further to the cost per impression, divide the CPM by 1000. For example, a $10 CPM equals $.01 per impression.
$10 CPM ÷ 1000 impressions = $.01 per impression
That’s a very different model from online advertising where payment is only triggered by an agreed upon event, such as click-through, registration or sale.
The new (cough, cough) paradigm.
Here’s a commercial that as far as I know has only appeared online (and only could have): http://www.dollarshaveclub.com/
Commercials can cost a great deal to produce. I worked on one AT&T spot that hit the million-dollar mark. But that’s still only the cost of production – then comes the cost of putting the million-dollar spot on the air.
The people at Dollar Shave Club have achieved a lot of attention with a clearly low-budget production and a fairly low marketing budget. They needed a Web site that supported their strategy and their approach. And they needed to produce their online spot. All together it sill has to be far less money than a national TV buy.
I think this is brilliant. (FastCompany and Huffington Post, among many others, seem to agree.) Producing a low-cost video then posting it online bypasses the traditional media costs associated with TV commercials … which most of us no longer even watch.
I think this is the future of advertising. What do you think?
(added 5/6/2012: A fascinating, in-depth, social media story on How McDonalds came back bigger than ever.)
(added 5/11/2012: A great spot you better watch before they take it down … click the “full screen” symbol and turn up the sound.)
This is your mind online.
Forget lunch … there’s no such thing as a free online story. The bill has come due and the cost is our sanity.
Pop-ups. Banners. Footers. Ads. Videos. Flash. Shockwave. (“Where’s the story? What was I trying to read?”)
The real news here is how much worse it is every day. Harder and harder to read anything online. Distractions and disturbances that outdo an over-crowded pre-school day-care center during snack time. We’re losing our marbles. (More of them every day.)
Take The Washington Post. A once-prestigious newspaper, the Post online is now like a 1960s Times Square streetwalker – all flash and distraction trying to get you to buy something. They lure us in with “View photo gallery” as part of news stories, then subject us to downloading and viewing commercials. Highly inappropriate when you’re reading about self-immolating Tibetans protesting the Chinese occupation.
And they are not alone. Chicago Tribune, same story. L. A. Times, ditto. Yes, I’m using pop-up blockers and have turned off third-party everything … but “they” are sneaky. They use new tricks every day.
I’m not even talking about Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and one’s own blog. I’m talking about trying to keep up with national and global events, seeking to be informed online, and feeling thwarted by “new media.” Being so utterly distracted leads one to simply give up and click that red “X” at the top right corner of the screen.
Oh yeah, it tuns out half the prescriptions we take have been shown to cause memory loss. That doesn’t help. While Ritalin can’t fix this particular type of attention deficit, there is help. A few years ago I discovered Readability.com. (Get it. Load it into your shortcuts. You’ll love it.) It has saved many brain cells whenever pages have opened with way-too-much-stuff-going-on.
Without tools like that, most of us give up in a nanosecond and forget about the story we were trying to read. Not worth it. Clicking the “Print” button often doesn’t do the trick since even those pages can have “eye candy.” (No thanks.)
Is it a newspaper or the strip in Vegas?
I began my professional career in P.R., in the music business, in Hollywood. I saw the best and worst aspects of journalism up close while trying to uphold standards. My job was working with the national press, maintaining contact with music reviewers and editors across the country to promote new albums and artist tours. After three-plus years, I got to know which were the really good pubs in the country, and which were merely bird cage liner.
Journalism meant something, and it had taken a long, long time to get it to that point of professionalism and accountability. Today, the world is changing faster than we can swap out light bulbs. The most seismic shift is that we no longer get our news primarily from print or broadcast. We go online.
Everything that was newspapers, magazines, radio and television only existed because of advertising revenue. Now that we have Tivo, and satellite radio and online news, advertisers need to find other ways to snare us. That’s what’s really leading the change in our lives and challenging our ability to focus. Technology is being created in response to marketing demands, not just the other way around.
The method to the madness? Traditional print and broadcast news is slowly disappearing. So media is trying to survive and make money via clicks vs. the advertising revenue they used to count on. Now they’re counting nickels instead of dollars, and they’re counting on clicks to roll them in.
Is this where advertising is headed?
Professional marketers are dismayed by the penny arcade approach to online marketing. How does it advance a brand to be the online equivalent of a circus barker? Look at The Denver Post online. It’s like the junk mail circulars tossed in our mail boxes by uncaring postal workers. That stuff isn’t even fit to line bird cages.
There’s a famous quote attributed in the U.K. to Lord Leverhulme (Lever Bros.) and in the U.S. to John Wanamaker (often called the father of department stores and advertising) which is taught in marketing classes around the globe: “I know that half of my advertising budget is wasted. I just don’t know which half.”
Guess what: those were the good old days. Online marketing hardly requires the kind of budgets that packaged goods producers and department stores considered a required cost of doing business. Online marketing is cheaper than dirt. It’s also highly invasive and often entirely un-targeted. There are claims that pop-ups and banners and Google ads only appear in relation to our searches and histories, but it’s still a wild goose chase.
The bottom line is that online advertising has to work much harder to grab our attention, so our attention is being pulled hard in multiple directions. Plus, the pay-off for online marketing is minimal. Just because we click on a link – whether by accident or on purpose – it doesn’t mean we actually intend to buy the thing that drew our attention.
The problem, as I see it, is that the medium affects the message. When we used to read things in print, if an ad interested us we could choose to read it. We might have grumbled at teen models covering entire pages when we were trying to read a story, but they were also easy to ignore. Turn, fold, read. Now that crap jumps in your face, whether you care about it or not. Without ways to stop the distractions, we lose interest, focus, etc. Welcome to life with ADD.
It’s not unlike spam. In many ways. However, the problem with that simile is that spam sadly works. It’s a billion-dollar industry built on false claims and complete deception. And only a tiny percentage of recipients need to respond for spammers to make a profit and determine they should keep it up. Marketers see that it works, and they want a piece of the pie. But that pie, ultimately, is being thrown in our faces.
We’re at a crossroads in marketing – real “marketing,” by the way, as in communication, not sales. On the one hand, you have the rabid mob screaming “social media,” and on the other you have the voice of experience, wisdom and reason saying, “hold on, there bubba, social media is still just one, small component of a total marketing strategy and campaign.”
By the way, this is a true crossroads: there are four directions from which to choose. In addition to understanding the difference between “social media” and “targeted marketing,” anyone who manages marketing is also facing a decision on whether to hire “technologists” vs. true advertising and marketing professionals.
What’s a technologist?
Ever since the Mac was introduced, software has been following which automates the creation of all things communication – ads, posters, brochures, flyers, Web sites, etc. Much of that automation software became available to PC owners as well. The result is that a great many of the folks who call themselves designers and writers are, too often, simply owners of hardware and software. “Technologists” in my book. Many can do an adequate job, but they will also have a limited repertoire of designs and approaches. Especially if they’re self-taught.
Of course, none of those folks think of themselves as “technologists.” So you can’t find out just by asking. How can you tell the difference? With some basic, pointed questions: “Got any formal training?” “Where have you worked?” “Got any clients who can provide success stories?”
Things can get tricky, though. Everyone is using the technology now, even those of us with training and exprertise. So the fact that designers and art directors use hardware and software doesn’t necessarily make them “technologists.” To know the difference between the pros and the pretenders will take a little digging.
(Here was a sure giveaway: one of them, an impertinent young pup, referred to print materials as “offline” marketing. Harrumph.)
The advertising Catch 22.
In the days of David Ogilvy, one couldn’t get a job in advertising unless one already had one. Tricky, isn’t it? That was still going on when I finally got to Madison Ave. How did we overcome that? That’s a secret. (O.k., I’ll tell.) When you didn’t have actual samples from actual jobs, you had to create your own. You had to prove yourself. You had to run a gauntlet, many times over. And then you had to watch your back while everyone around you was eyeing your office. (Ah, yes, those were the days.)
It wasn’t all fun and games, though – you actually got one hell of an education. After a dozen years on Madison Ave. you could take on any Harvard MBA, and win. They couldn’t slice and dice your presentations and campaign positioning because you’d been through the ringer in-house before you ever got to the client’s offices. You knew exactly why you were recommending a specific direction and ultimately so did your client. (Not quite the same with many of the “marketing folk” vying for your business today.)
Is “new” always “better?”
New is often just “new,” and not automatically “better.” Although everyone has heard the expression “snake oil salesman,” everyone still hopes for magic and is desperate to believe that it’s out there. So when the social media bandwagon showed up, everyone was ready to jump on it, hoping it was a magical shortcut to quick riches and fame.
But the basics of marketing haven’t changed one iota. (The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.) Whether you’re using Twitter or Facebook or your own Web site, your messaging has to be compelling and relevant to your true target audience. Without that, you’ve got zip. No matter how many “followers” you may have.
Anyone who works in any form of marketing or communication can’t help paying attention to what’s going on in the world. Whether it’s technology innovations, or business trends in our areas of expertise – we simply have to notice, and we unavoidably must have an opinion.
Who let them in?
It’s becoming more and more challenging to achieve quality in communications because of how many non-professionals are cluttering the field. The Internet has not only changed everything, it has also kinda, sorta leveled the playing field … by bringing the bar down to barely inches above the ground.
What a lot of them don’t get is that branding isn’t a single event, it’s an ongoing, never-ending process. And every marketing decision you take can make or break your brand.
Why choose a pro over a non-pro? Maybe an analogy would help. Let’s say you decide you’d like to be trained to shoot. Would you prefer to be trained by someone who had bought their first gun last month, or someone who’s been through all the military and police training available on all kinds of firearms? That’s pretty much the situation that people in your marketing shoes are facing today.
Remember, guns don’t kill people, bad ads do.
The harm we do.
(As David Mamet repeats ad nauseum,) here’s the thing: advertising is the life-blood of free-market capitalism. It’s the critical building block of our competitive marketplace. Without advertising’s ability to create awareness of options, choices, innovations and benefits, none of the global, powerhouse brands would even exist. None. And the world would be a very different place.
If it weren’t for highly effective marketing, we’d likely have just one brand of automobile, or soap, or burger. We’d likely have just one place to buy clothing. Might as well be communists, right?
But that doesn’t mean that all we do in the name of competitive advantage is good and just. Much of what we’ve done is inexcusable. For one, our profession has permanently affected language in negative ways that may well never be changed back.
Just one example is “think different” (created by TBWA\Chiat\Day … not Apple.) That intentional aberration of adverb use (along with its gap-toothed cousin from AT&T, “rethink possible”) has wrongly taught at least one generation, and infuriated a good many of us.
Another highly annoying example is “lite,” the moronic bastardization of “light” that has become the norm for beer, music, “healthy menu options” – just one more aberration that confuses the hell out of school children. Does this stuff bother you the way it bothers me?
Granted, the English language is highly inconsistent. We say bite, but not nite (or lite … or nite-lite). Bear and tear serve multiple purposes. It takes practice and focus to keep it straight. Knowing and sticking to the rules is the only way to make certain things are as clear as possible.
Language defines us.
So, is it all right to be hip and cool at the expense of language? Be careful how you answer that. To many (me included), language is culture – the very thing that defines who we are.
English in the U.S. is already 400 years away from English in the U.K. We’re culturally distinct. (The editors of the Oxford English Dictionary have said that in less than 200 years’ time we’ll need translators.)
How powerful is language? Imagine that one morning every German suddenly could only speak Italian, and all Italians could only speak German. Would they still be Germans and Italians? If that morning had occurred in the 1930s, would there have even been a WWII?
You see where this is heading. Language doesn’t just inform us, it defines us; language conveys our level of consciousness; language is what distinguishes us from all other life forms. So how can ad agencies be so casual about its fundamental laws of use?
The before-our-time Madison Avenue slogan “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” outraged grammarians and educated people everywhere back in the 50s. Yet it stuck. For 20 years. Such is the power of advertising. If you’ve seen it in print, it’s hard to argue against it.
“Winston tastes good as a cigarette should” hardly would have sounded as snappy in the brand-making, RJR cigarette-selling jingle of early television days.
“Think differently” would likely have not had as much of an impact as the entirely incorrect version that has come to define Apple.
But at what cost?
This is your brain on advertising.
The very language that we’re taught and depend on to communicate clearly and effectively is what suffers the consequences. At the very least, we’ll have more and more misguided “copywriters” bastardizing the English (or your choice) language.
What am I talking about? Take a look at these jaw-dropping, grammar-destroying automobile commercials:
Mercedes C-Class Coupe – More power. More style, More technology. Less doors. (Uggghhhh. I can hear the copywriter’s mind working … “People say ‘more or less,’ right? Not ‘more or fewer.’ So it must be ‘less.’ Besides, we don’t want to be less hip than Apple…”)
Honda Civic – To each their own. (Ouch. This noun subject and possessive pronoun disagreement may well have arisen from a desire to be ‘PC.’ … “You know, why ‘his,’ why does it have to be male-oriented all the time? What? Singular, plural? What are you talking about? Let’s just go with ‘their.’” “Yeah, dude, ‘their.’”)
[That's a whole other topic: if you don't use a cliché in its original form, it loses its power.]
This slope is very slippery.
See where this is going? See how things are snowballing? As more grammar-flaunting (grammar-ignorant?) “copywriters” decide that they, too can bend the rules, the ill-advised will be increasing the number of the ill-educated. And who’s at fault? Yep, ad agencies.
It must be a conscious decision to warp grammar in order to suit a marketing concept. There’s even a warping of a “rule” to justify it: The Pareto Principle – the 80/20 rule, which originally described how 20 percent of Italian landowners owned 80 percent of the land.
As applied in advertising, the Pareto principle has come to mean that 80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of a specific target audience. In the case of messing with language and grammar, the ad agency self-justification seems to be that 80 percent of people won’t care about bad (or non-existent) grammar … or even recognize it. (Shudder.)
Clearly, I’m one of the 20 percent. Are you? Wonder if we should occupy something …
The sheep in wolf’s clothing.
A great deal of social media is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. There’s absolutely nothing simpler than posting an opinion or an article to a blog, or a brief message on Twitter, etc. Does that mean everything we see and read is trustworthy, reliable … even true?
One of the biggest lies is about SEO. So many folks out there are still shouting that SEO is the end-all and be-all of marketing. But you know better. You’ve been frustrated by pointless search results that bring up mash-ups of rehashed articles that ultimately say nothing of interest or importance. That’s why Google has clamped down on SEO abusers.
And that’s one reason we’re all suffering Social Media Fatigue.
Here comes the research.
The Gartner Group’s December, 2010 and January, 2011 survey of 6000+ social networking users – among the first adopters of Social Media – showed that they’re experiencing fatigue and are visiting social networking sites such as Facebook less often. Gartner’s recommendation: “Advertising and marketing firms should re-think their stance as this survey might point to the beginning of boredom as a result of the ‘social media fatigue.’”
They said “people are bored,” but they didn’t say “why.” I can tell them. It’s not just about being overwhelmed by too many sites and options multiple times per day; it’s because of the truly dreadful writing you find on so many of the sites. If there actually was good content, would we be so bored? So fatigued?
Professional writers constantly see pleas for help writing “content.” That’s because so many businesses have launched Web sites and Web-based businesses without really thinking through content. So when we get there, we find little of value, and simply click away.
These dolts believe that all they need is “words” to hold people’s interest … any words. So they’re paying SEO and “content writers” to provide said words.
However, most of these so-called writers couldn’t create compelling match-book covers. Bad content is bad content. People will always click away.
Welcome to the Wild West.
The World Wide Web is the Wild West of today. Seemingly, anything goes. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and more and more software comes out every day that does most of it for you … except for creating compelling content.
Think of it this way: you’ve decided to launch a new magazine. It’s going to be a doozy. It will top all other magazines that have come before. So, how will you do that? Could you possibly, just maybe need some really good writing to fill those stellar pages? Are there that many great writers out there with articles at their fingertips to enthrall the throngs waiting for your whopper publication? Sadly, no. (You knew that, of course.)
Listen up people: no content, no audience.
Web sites that are like this fictional magazine are desperate for stuff to fill their pages. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of truly bad writers offering wholly unoriginal, uninspiring content. Once again, we get there, take a quick look around … and click away.
That’s why contemporary marketing departments are stuck between a rock and a mouse click. They feel they have to have a “social media component.” But they’re never entirely sure it’s working. Maybe that’s because it’s not. If it was, you’d know. If we found something tremendously interesting, we’d spread the word in a nanosecond.
The wedding dress story.
Some years ago, a fellow who seemed in every way a down-home, even red-neck kind of guy put his ex-wife’s wedding dress up for sale on eBay. The writing was down-to-earth, straightforward and hilarious. For example he wrote, “I’ve been told that you have to have someone model clothing. Since I don’t have anyone to do that, I’m just putting on the dress myself.” Yes, he had photos of his burly self in a wedding dress. The reaction was likely the textbook definition of “going viral.” It had more hits in less time than anything ever before on eBay. He even got multiple marriage proposals. And the dress sold for a very high figure.
So “social media” can work, if the content is compelling, interesting or relevant. But that’s rare these days. Most of it isn’t any of those things. And that’s why we’re just plain bored with it.
Marketing is far more than merely making a statement. The “if you build it they will come” approach doesn’t work. Seriously. “Hey! We’re here! Come on in!” Seriously?
It takes real marketing to bring real attention to both your business and … your marketing. Because the first job of any marketing worth its salt is to call attention to itself. And hold onto it. The best way to do that is for your marketing to convey not just what you do but also how it benefits your specific target audience. If your Web site is merely an electronic business card, it will only be noticed if you push it into someone’s hands.
In today’s “online first” approach to marketing, many firms are shouting to be heard among billions of others shouting just as loudly. The question is: “how do you make your voice stand out?”
What is real marketing?
Ask that question and you’ve opened a real Pandora’s box – endless answers, opinions and variations will bubble up. Historically, the concept of offering to sell something to someone else was associated with carnival barkers and “snake-oil” salesmen. (Naturally, that kind of history makes us “professionals” want to avert our eyes.)
But marketing is much older than that. As old as rug merchants and camel traders in souks and bazaars – the pre-Christian era, and the kind of Oriental markets that lured Marco Polo. Those, um, business people pre-dated used-car salesmen by at least a few thousand years in hawking their goods as if they were the finest ever produced in their corner of the world.
The point is, marketing has undergone an evolution. It’s evolved from “making claims” to presenting “benefits.” Give people a compelling reason to listen to your pitch and you’re heading toward better marketing – real marketing.
In the 50s and 60s, gasoline companies were led by savvy marketers to talk about “the experience of the road” rather than about the components of their noxious product. That was something big. They were guided into talking about the benefits of using their fine petroleum distillates rather than the gasoline itself. (Eventually, though, they moved on to claim that their ingredients were tops, or clean your engine, or give you better mileage … you get the idea.)
How to get there.
Giving things new names doesn’t always make them better. So beware “branding” experts when entering marketing waters. Building a brand and an identity involves much more than merely a checklist of what current, self-styled “professionals” refer to as branding.
The basic rules of marketing will always apply: (a) define and refine your core message about your offering; (b) determine your true target audience; (c) determine what that audience needs or wants; (d) determine who else is doing what you do and what they say; (e) make sure you have at least one point of differentiation; (f) make sure your benefits are clear; (g) make sure your messaging “speaks” to your true target audience’s concerns, needs and desires.
What’s happened recently in marketing is a mass move to an online presence led by technologists, not marketers. Many of them claim to be marketing experts, and many of them cry “social media” much like that boy in the fable about the wolf. But they often know not what they say. Social media can never be more than one component of a complete marketing strategy. And it’s still in its infancy.
Remember The Great Oz behind the curtain pulling levers and cords, saying “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain“? That’s a good metaphor for social media as marketing.
Remember who you’re talking to.
We don’t produce marketing for ourselves – we do it for our specific and distinct target audience. So it’s not about what you or I like. It’s about what “they” like. Too often, clients think their tastes should dictate the messaging. But what if your tastes are nothing like your audience’s? Will you lose your audience – and sales – by sticking to off-base messaging?
And if you’ve already dipped your toes into the social-media-as-marketing waters, you’ve already learned that “followers” seldom equal “customers.” You have to do a lot more work to get that pay-off.
Social media may have altered the landscape, but it hasn’t changed the basic rules of marketing. Client, know thy audience.
The Amazon.com model may be entirely Web-based, but is everything? Is your business? Not if you’re in a service business, a retail business or in business-to-business. For those, the classic marketing rules apply. And assuming a Web site and a social media agenda is the be-all and end-all of marketing will land you in the twilight zone of one-dimensional marketing.
My problems with social media.
Quite recently, Google began severely limiting how several of the largest placers of SEO (search engine optimization) can do business. Why? They finally had to admit that the quality of online searches had been significantly degraded by “SEO tricks” that always placed certain companies (e.g., JC Penney) at the top. People were starting to lose interest in even searching on Google. And, worse, Google was losing credibility.
That’s one problem. The other problem is the very anti-climactic explosion of so-called “social media marketing.” Is it really marketing if it’s social media? Seriously.
Jaron Lanier, one of the original Internet gurus, has himself said that much is wanting in terms of what happens when we view “search results.” His warning is that the methods of aggregating data now leave out the human element. In other words, searches will bring up results, but they may be futile, and worse, frustrating. Why? Because SEO can be rigged, like bad slot machines. What Lanier says is that SEO is ultimately marketing to machines, not people. It’s based on bringing about certain results between computers, not humans.
Sadly, social media marketing can indeed force us to momentarily look at results and ads that are wholly irrelevant, but if a certain percentage of naïve folks click on those links, the SEO “gurus” rate that as a success. It ain’t necessarily so. It’s a numbers game, not a targeted marketing campaign.
The next big thing isn’t really that big.
Very few of the very young proponents of social media know much about advertising. Most of them are technologists, not conceptual creative people. They also know little about recent advertising history. For example, how everything about advertising changed in the 1980s when the Saatchi brothers and then the WPP Group (led by Martin Sorrell, the disgruntled former employee of Saatchi & Saatchi) ran amok with mega-mergers.
The tone, quality, look and feel of American advertising was never the same again once so many professionals ended up on the streets as a result of what the British call “redundancy.” (A very appropriate term since both the Saatchis and Sorrell are British, and are now either Lords or Sirs … follow the money.)
Part of the outcome of all the ugly mergers was the burgeoning of smaller shops, most in places other than New York, Chicago or L.A. Boutiques became more common, and creativity got a second chance at life.
Then, over the past decade, social media started to poke its head out of the horizon. To those of us who came of out Madison Ave. agencies, trained in surgical marketing techniques, we instantly saw social media for what it was: a shotgun approach to marketing or branding. The social media approach is diametrically opposed to the targeted marketing approach.
I know of lots of folks who will claim that you can slice and dice Facebook, Twitter, etc. like other media, but I frankly believe they know not what they talk about. You can also see numbers on how many people drive down a certain highway. That doesn’t mean they’re all heading to your business.
Where’s the science? Where’s the methodology?
My experience has shown that you can’t truly target a specific audience through social media. You can “assume” you have, and you can also “hope” that you’ve attracted the right “followers” for the right reasons. Saying, “dear client you have 5,000 fans on your Facebook page” is ultimately a far cry from buying lists for specific zip codes or doing magazine buys like “Vogue” or “Car & Driver,” or buying TV spots during the Super Bowl.
Just because someone “likes” your company on Facebook doesn’t mean they actually “like” your offering. That’s a whole other kettle of fish. And even if you have 30,000 “followers” on Twitter, what does that actually translate to in sales? (I’m waiting …)
The biggest advances in advertising (e.g. Doyle Dane Bernbach) were symbiotic with the growth and sophistication of research and media departments. Social media is an entirely different ball game, and has very little to do with what was achieved in the best years of Madison Ave. when advertising became both a science and a methodology. The creative was always the wild card, but it could always be measured against a very well-defined strategy to make certain it was at least on target. (Remember creative briefs?)
With social media, you’re ultimately saying the same thing to everyone at the same time. Google Adwords, for example, are very similar to billboards on highways. They have milliseconds to get their message across. And there’s no way of knowing that the exact right people are on that very highway on the very same days when the billboard is up. While clicks are an indication of something, they’re not at all the same as telling us know how long people actually stay on a page, or what they do as a result of “visiting.”
You’re on social media right now, right?
Am I suggesting we ignore social media? Of course not. (I’m doing this blog, aren’t I?) I’m saying that marketing is evolving, and that social media is still figuring itself out. We don’t entirely know where things are headed. What we do know is that we all zap TV commercials now, we listen to anything but radio in the car, and print media is struggling to stay alive. Things on the social media landscape are nothing like the creative for which some of us won One Show, Clio or Andy awards.
We can (and must) create “spiders” with online media, but are their results anywhere as precise as knowing who reads “Nature” or “Sports Illustrated” or ” Better Homes and Gardens?” Clearly not. Yes, social media results can kinda, sorta tell you who’s searching on “dry skin issues” (although blocking “cookies” defeats that). But it doesn’t help you much beyond seeing numbers for the search. You may know that some folks drilled all the way down to a $2.00 coupon for some dry skin treatment. But then what do you really know? Was there actually a sale, or was there merely someone intent enough to actually drill all the way down?
There are only two ways I can get information about who’s visiting this site: Google Analytics (anonymous) and comments. The lack of precision is my bugaboo. Along with the fact that social media is largely dependent on numerical averaging vs. real “reader/viewer/listener/visitor” stats about “real humans.” (Back to Jaron Lanier). Alas, what we get more than anything with social media is spam. Put yourself “out there” and the “there” bites back. (I delete around 10 per day.)
The Internet has changed the world. Literally. And social media is one of the outcomes. It’s certainly here to stay. But it’s also certainly far from fully formed. (Infancy would not be a stretch.) When a client asks for links to FB, Twitter, blogs, etc. on their new Web site, I always ask, “Who’s going to maintain them?” “Who’s going to keep the content fresh?” “Who’s going to make sure your spiders are up to date?” Hardly anyone ever knows the answers to those questions.
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