Posted by admin on December 18th, 2009
Last week I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the iMedia Agency Summit, a gathering of over 400 online advertising and media executives in Scottsdale, AZ. Although I was kidded by both family and colleagues alike about the good fortune of a December trip to Phoenix, it was 50 degrees and raining most of the time. Seriously.
Nevertheless, it was worth it.
I walked away knowing that this conference was another microcosm of the thinking, the tension, and the overall “history is repeating itself” dynamic of the online ad business right now. A lot of people are struggling with the effects that social technology has brought to their world, much in the same way that marketers and ad agencies struggled with the origins of the Web back in the mid-late 90’s. Back then, the establishment of standard units by the IAB became a critical milepost in developing what’s now a $12 billion industry (one attendee threw this figure out there; I’m not sure if it’s accurate).
There was a vibe during the social media discussion that gave a distinct impression that some people are looking for standardization in social media and social marketing. Put it in a box so they can buy it, deploy it and measure it. I’m not one of those people.
The 7 C’s of Social Marketing
My presentation to the group, in partnership with Chris Andrew of Digitas, was dubbed, “The 7 C’s of Social Marketing.” I preferred our original title, “Advertising Doesn’t Work in Social, and Facebook Isn’t a Strategy. What do I Do?” but I’m actually grateful to Nancy Galanty of iMedia for changing it. It was an easy-to-digest series of cases that John Durham of Catalyst SF told me set the tone for the Town Hall discussion that followed.
That talk was partially defined by the question, “How can we collectively insure that social media doesn’t become the next banner ad?” And it was all about what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to be done in the online ad business to deal with social.
Let’s start with what doesn’t work: Thinking of “social media” as a thing or a product. Instead, try thinking about it as the socialization of media (not my phrase, but I’d credit to someone if it could actually be pinpointed). That mindset puts you in a place where you can deal with the dynamic changes going on and setting a vision for a long-term media/marketing strategy. You’re no longer reacting to the flavor of the month or the shiniest new object. Yes, some of these things are important, but they are only ingredients.
You also begin to see why campaigns don’t necessarily work and why they have to be continuous. People don’t turn their lives on and off, so marketers cannot afford to turn their relationships on and off. In this social mindset, clicks are not the most important measurement, but they become a part of a larger ongoing series of measurements.
With this mindset, you begin to see what does work. This might seem obvious, but “social” is about conversation. And those conversations tend to go very deep into what people really care about. For marketers, this can uncover a tremendous amount of insight, and those are measurements that tell me a lot more than the cost-per-click. (I know; that’s a cheap shot).
What needs to be done?
The simple answer is, “Continue to think creatively.” That solution works in marketing all the time, but that answer gets interpreted (and misinterpreted) all the time. It’s not about more creative ads or better direct marketing. The team at Ad Age said that nicely recently. Don’t put conversations in a box try to standardize them. The value of conversations is in their content and context, not necessarily their sheer number.
Surely, it will be important to measure and (to some degree) count the conversations that are happening. But smart marketers will be setting objectives and looking at the mosaic of conversations to see what people are telling them. They’ll find ways to connect and participate in thousands of little conversations happening among their customers to create relationships. They won’t just head to the great big place where they’re hanging out this week.
And ultimately, that’s what will work. Because connecting 1,000 little things on the web will always work better than having one big thing.