Thursday, 17 September 2009

People Communicate En Masse in Social Media, That Doesn't Make it Mass Media

Reply to Comment posted below re: "The Future of Adland":

JReynolds said...

Thanks for your thinking. I agree with much of it, but to call social media "identical to telephone" technology reveals a fundamental mis-understanding of the tool.
To share a message with 1,000 people via a telephone would take weeks. To share it via social media takes 10 seconds. The result is that information -- grassroots opinions, knowledge, etc. -- is transmitted so quickly with so much traceability that it renders 1-way broadcast mediums obsolete for communications (but not necessarily entertainment).

Ah, you're entirely right, JReynolds, but I'm talking about the nature of 'SOCIAL communication', not the way the technology works. I believe there's a fundamental difference between emerging media that will prove to be appropriate for injecting marketing messages, and those that, like the telephone, are not appropriate for interrupting conversations with marketing efforts. We're all learning as we go, but all the best-in-class advice we're hearing today about marketers' involvement in the new 'social media' is all speaking to PR efforts, NOT marketing, per se (outside of display ads on the social sites).

Yes, offering up contests, polls, useful sponsored apps, etc. are ways for brands to get talked about and shared (as is advertising on ATL - the ideal was to have folks talking about our ads around the water cooler and on the phone), but I remain convinced that the fundamental, underlying nature of what is happening when this happens willingly amongst members in a social network does NOT equate to marketers feeling free to mess about inside these media. To Phil's point about what our "Holy Grail" is, we WANT people to talk about our brands and marketing efforts in social media/networks, but that is NOT the same as trying to manipulate the conversations happening within the media.

Marketing, I believe, will always work best when we recognize the invisible (and shifting) line between advertising-appropriate and 'not-so-much' media. Let's do campaigns, let's acknowledge the growing recognition that only experiential marketing puts the brand experience in people's hands, but let's not blindly believe that just because there's a new medium through which people are communicating en masse, that that makes it a mass medium.

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