Posted by admin on January 6th, 2010
Last week, after a conversation about end-of-the-year type stuff, Katie Morse forwarded me an article that crystallized (for me at least) the divide that has begun to evaporate between the “traditional media” and “social media” worlds over the past few years.
The article was about the digiday:TARGET conference last month, and a conversation among several executives about the way “brands are showing up online.” I wasn’t there, so I can’t offer the full context of what appeared to be a pretty interesting media buying debate. However, the real tension – the most captivating point – and the thing that made me stop was the idea of “showing up.”
What does it mean when a brand shows up?
Well, it used to mean that you were looking at research, perhaps a list, or some piece of syndicated data on who had spent media dollars. You might have seen brands listed as having advertised in print or on TV or radio. They might have shown up on a list of good brands or bad brands, but did they actually do anything other than make a cursory appearance before the page was turned, the commercial skipped or the channel changed?
That’s the way I used to think about it. But not anymore.
Today, my first reaction is to laugh, because when you talk about brands “showing up” now, it’s not about traditional media. You mean social marketing. The phrase has a new context; the bar has been raised, and most marketers playing in the online media sandbox realize that there’s a new set of rules. For them, “showing up” means participating in people’s lives – and not just as a tool, product or service.
The social web is what changed that. Interpersonal communication is not always face to face anymore. It happens via web sites, through text messages, and comments and photo and video uploads and more. When you consider the way people use the web now – relying on it to connect and share with others – you begin to think of the web as something other than an advertising medium. Something altogether different than other marketing channels.
For many people, the web is just plain integrated to the way they live. For some, their most intimate relationships are with those whom they connect online. Yes, people still “visit” web sites, but their motivations and expectations are much greater than even a few years ago.
That’s the difference (and the difficulty) in showing up now.
When brands show up online now, they are actively participating in people’s lives. Marketers have the potential to create experiences that are as inspiring (or not) as the daily interactions people have with their brands. And inspiring people is what creates word-of-mouth, the most desirable and trusted form of communication.
This makes the online marketing mix an interesting place – one where the brand imagery truly has to fit with the brand delivery. In addition, research isn’t something you do before and after you communicate; it’s something that happens while you communicate and within the medium. Show up in this medium, and you’d better not just be lobbing in messages about how you’re better than the competition. You’d better be real, authentic, transparent, (insert next social buzzword here). That’s the fact, though.
A lot of brands have shown up this year. Fan pages, Twitter accounts, and iPhone apps are among the places where they’re done it. Many of them have even shown up on a list of the Top 100 Social Brands (according to Vitrue). It’s a list that is dominated by brands that have traditionally inspired people with their marketing and product delivery. Many of the usual suspects, you might say.
But next year, that should change considerably. Because in 2010, a lot more brands are going to show up. Will you be one of them?