Everything is social so now what?

TV is social. Ironic given that social media and digital distractions were supposed to kill TV. Instead, as Fast Company tells us, appointment viewing is back. Why? So we can tweet with our friends while we watch.

Advertising is social. On YouTube we seek out stuff to watch, comment on and pass along. On other platforms we gather our own friends for lively discussions on brands we love or those we love to hate.

Retails is social. And not just in the Groupon way. Dressing rooms connect us to our Facebook friends. Innovative marketers crowdsource price reductions. And forward thinking retail employees leverage their own social networks to boost both sales and service.

For marketers, however, social media’s proliferation poses as many challenges as opportunities. In fact, in its 2011 predictions, Forrester suggests that the easy days of Social Media Marketing are over. Once it was enough just to engineer your digital presence, buy a few likes and slip some content into the stream. Now marketers have to contend with saturation, fragmentation, and the big issue of privacy.

Their recommendation, no surprise, is to elevate engagement. Not just the kind that gets a customer to check-in or respond directly to a brand, but engagement that motivates a brand’s friends and followers to make an impression on those with whom they’re connected. Think in terms of the Crowdtap model, which does exactly that.

Forrester also argues that more companies need to turn all employees into marketers. (Good news for start-ups like 1Yell.) At Mullen we’ve developed training manuals and guidelines for select clients on how to do that. But one tip is to make social media participation an actual criterion for hiring. (Recent Gen-Y graduates, if you are at all socially savvy, use that to sell a prospective employer on your future value.)

Finally, Forrester reminds all those marketers who can never see beyond the immediate, short-term ROI that they shouldn’t disregard the significant risk of doing nothing. Given consumers widespread fondness and enthusiasm for all things social brands have no choice but to be there.

Yet when you consider the scenarios mentioned above, consumers don’t participate because they want to connect with a brand or its information. Appointment TV viewing and conversation, group advertising critique, and social dressing rooms all have one thing in common. They attract people by connecting them to each other.

The smartest social media marketers recognize that it’s the gift of community – whether built around conversation, data or utility – that serves them best in the social space. Doling out coupons still works. And disguising a sales pitch as social engagement may be tolerated, but they won’t be enough over the long term.

Two of my favorite social media examples have less to do with platforms that sell likes or gather followers and instead demonstrate the value of connecting people to each other. One is Garmin Connect, a community of runners and cyclists who may have thought they were buying a GPS device to save them from getting lost only to discover that they bought into a community of like-minded athletes who readily share their runs, rides and routes, making content from others as valuable as the personal data captured by the device itself. Oh, by the way, the community also encourages a greater dependency on the brand – increasing the likelihood users will buy the next upgrade, and building a brilliant barrier to exit.

The second is Skype’s In the Classroom, a free community for teachers to connect, find partners, recruit speakers, and share inspiration. When Skype, with its partner Made by Many, discovered that the only thing limiting educators’ use of Skype was finding people to Skype with, they built this two-sided directory as a solution. They didn’t ask teachers to follow them on Twitter, or click on a Like button. They offered the gift of community, connecting people to each other.

Want to be embraced by the consumers whose attention and involvement you covet? Give them something they actually value. Connections to people they want to connect with.

11 comments
DavidALee
DavidALee

Just because you own a toolbox doesn't mean you could build a house or fix a car. Social media with many brands is the same way. Many brands, large and small, build their marketing house without a set of plans especially when it comes to social media. Too many organizations are lost in the tools and don't start with a strategy. Garmin and Crowdtap are both great examples of where a strategy lead to the development of the tools required to make the strategy a reality. I started "playing" on Empire Avenue and am intrigued that the best "brands" on the site are those that build communities within the game. Right now the best communities I have seen are those that provide tips to help you play the game. The big brands, don't get that this is a game about teamwork. They are still applying old school marketing thoughts to a new tool.

@benkunz How much of that TV watching is done live vs. DVR? I know from my work with the Millennial generation that they are uber multitaskers so what are they doing when the TV commercials come on? Are they not interacting because they are awash in too many ads or are the ads failing to grasp their attention? Advertising agencies, in my opinion, need to find ways to make ads more compelling to want to watch. A great case study of a campaign ahead of its time is the Tasters Choice couple from the 90s. When TC ended the campaign people wrote the company wanting to know what happened to the couple. That is a connection most brands would love to have! Imagine what could have been done if that couple was on social media? Somewhere between Tasters Choice and Old Spice lies the campaign that truly integrates TV and social. People want to interact with people, real or fictional. Add in the current excitement over reality TV and that leads to my thoughts on what's next.

If I were a creative at an agency I would develop a reality like commercial series but instead of just a scatter buy I would also have set time(s) and station(s) and promote it as a 30 second reality show and not a commercial. When I mentioned this to a member of Neil Howe's team (he coined the term Millennial) during a project I worked on the response was "Yes, commercials are something you TiVO through." Create a demand to watch your advertisement...I mean reality show...and then continue that excitement using other channels. It's time to take our social media tools from the equivalent of banging nails with a rock to using a nail gun!

benkunz
benkunz

If I may disagree, I must. Not everything is social for a simple reason -- there is more demand for marketers to push messages out than there is corresponding demand for consumers willing to have relationships.

Here's some quick math, as an example. The typical U.S. consumer watches 5 hours and 9 minutes of TV a day (yes, less for younger demos, they're only at 3 hours 30 minutes). Internet, mobile and social pales in comparison, at less than 1 hour a day. (Source: Nielsen in-home studies tracking eye movements of consumers in 5 cities.) So, let's think about that -- at 30 seconds a TV spot, and about 16-18 minutes of commercials an hour, the typical person is exposed to 166 television commercials a day. Now add in the scores of billboards, banner ads, print ads, social media push-out tweets, and you see a person is awash in thousands of outbound marketing messages.

Who wants to connect with all those brands? Impossible.

Of course, you could argue this means old-school advertising doesn't work, but that is a fallacy -- advertising has always been a game of what you catch, not what you spill. A TV ad unabsorbed by most of the audience can still drive financial results if a fraction respond.

The truth is relatively simple: Consumers like to spend hours being entertained; the price they pay is unwanted ad messages (with a small portion that work); and the supply of marketing fueling those ads greatly outweighs any desire by the consumer to connect with all of those brands.

I know a guy who is the voice of Hello Mello, and his consumers are passionate, reconnecting back. But the sad fact is the world of product supply is out of sync with the consumer relationship need. Not everything is social, because the laws of supply and demand decree it must be so.

joebertino
joebertino

No doubt about the need for creative technologists in the ad world, but I have a feeling the role of community manager will become more and more important as brands continue to connect people through innovative social media platforms. It's one thing to build an idea, it's another to keep people engaged and happy while participating. Great post Edward, thanks again for sharing.

JoPeKim
JoPeKim

Word for word the best nutshell on social media. I will be quotIng many nuggets.

matthewduncan
matthewduncan

Nice article! Especially like the last sentence and phrase the "gift of community."

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@benkunz At least someone shows up to disagree every now and then. But I am not saying that advertising doesn't work, or that push messages are totally dead, or that people spend more time on social and web than on TV (though the influential who matter more definitely do; lots of couch potatoes who are influenced rather than influencers sitting in front of the tube). I am saying that to some degree everything is social, has a social component to it, and needs to incorporate participation and sharing, or at least the option. Given how many people are on Facebook alone, and the fact that they share almost everything : what they watch, what they read, where they are, etc. hard to argue that everything isn't. Even good old TV advertising. Which, by the way, will get more and more social with time. Just you watch and see.

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@joebertino Joe, you are right about the role if community manager. Good topic for future post.

benkunz
benkunz

@edwardboches Edward, you raise good points. I just don't see the majority of consumers' time being "engaged" ... and if passive intake is our passion (which it is), then the market for push communications will trump that of social engagement. See the CRM fad of the 1990s (not software, but strategy) where every brand was going to build 1to1 relationships with engaged consumers. Didn't happen. Of course brands should push forward in social, but it's a small slice of the overall sphere of "influence communications." As bad as this sounds, advertising -- pushing a message out -- is still the dominant force in getting consumers information to buy new things, and this, warm-hearted sentiment aside, is what marketers really need. I'm all for two-way love, but we live in a world of resistance met with force. Cheers!

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