Monday, 5 September 2011

Marketers FINALLY Starting to Understand "Social Media": It's 'Pull', NOT 'Push'

Credit: Gary Larson, The Far Side
For many years I've been arguing that, outside of being a NEW medium, and therefore interesting and exciting, that what is now being called "social media" has INCREDIBLE value as a tool for marketers, but only as a 'nearly real time' medium for:
  1. Listening: allowing marketers to monitor how effective their real marketing efforts are in order to guide next steps.
  2. Communicating directly (2-ways) with consumers to address issues quickly and with carefully constructed replies (PR).
  3. Generating positive PR like we used to do with press releases.
  4. Offering access to advertorials and participation in a brand's contests and causes.
Of course the rest of the marketing world is busy trying to do what they've done best since the first 'snake oil salesmen' emerged: force marketing messages into the mix to push more sales.  Over time, however, the cleverest firms have started to sort out the real value of new ways to communicate with their customers and to leverage new technology: check out this article (link).

Here are my 'answers' to some remarkably un-insightful 'questions' on Quora from a couple of fine examples of the world's lemmings:
Do advertisers recognize the strength of social media as an advertising tool in the Middle East? If yes, do they prefer it over traditional advertising?

Give me a break! Social Media are a totally unproven 'advertising tool'! Zero truly proven ROI, even via the most sophisticated metrics tools today. "Social Marketing" does not exist, it is a PR channel, not a marketing channel, as time will demonstrate.

That is not to suggest that it isn't going to morph into something that is useful for marketing purposes, but right now most of the efforts being made in the 'social sphere' are 'push' related, not 'pull marketing' (with some notable exceptions). While early adopters/innovators will put up with a lot of ham-fisted 'push' tactics in the early days of any new medium (see: "Second Life"), over time as the masses adopt the medium they will demand 'push' marketing be removed, just as today's government-imposed 'Do Not Call Lists' for telemarketing illustrates.

People will talk about brands in any social millieu only because they want to. We can use social media to MONITOR their conversations, but not to thrust our brand messages into. Experiential Marketing, used in combination with LBS couponing, contests and video ads played to us because we asked to see them once ('fully addressable advertising'), will be where marketing spending shifts as 'Social Marketing' dies its rightful death.

Social Media took the air out of Experiential Media's sails, what is the next buzz-worthy Media concept to deflate Social?

You are actually asking two questions by making an assumption: Social Media has killed Experiential Marketing? While social media definitely "took the wind out of experiential
marketing's sails", it has in no way diminished it as a tool of the future!

If you buy into the shift from 'push' to 'pull' marketing that Social Media have forced upon marketers, then Experiential continues to be the leading tool in the box for brands. Experiential Marketing delivers interactive brand experiences with Brand Ambassadors in real life -- there is no more powerful tool to start a Social Media 'conversation'. Coupons, contests and other incentives can help, but they don't employ a live person to contribute information and emotional sincerity (testimonial credibility) to the initial product trial. Experiential, while vastly more expensive than other media on a 'cost per touch' basis, has the advantage of vastly superior ROI. One solitary 'exposure' has the potential to hook a loyal consumer for life. Above the Line media do not change behaviors, they can change perceptions and awareness -- Experiential Marketing changes buying behavior directly and immediately.

Sadly, in the moment that Experiential was poised to win a significantly larger slice of marketing spending, 'Social Marketing' reared its "The Latest Thing!" head and stole a huge chunk of spending based on nothing but hype, with virtually ZERO actual ROI. Social media, because they feel like familiar 'push' media, have an enormously higher 'comfort factor' for media buyers and marketers to shift spending to. Remember that TV advertising has NEVER, in the past 70 years (since 1929) had ANY really provable ROI, outside of us all knowing that if a brand hits us on the head with sufficient regularity and frequency, the pain will linger all the way to the retail aisle.

Your second question about what will follow Social, then, is first and foremost Experiential. As the hype dies down and the low ROI (now demonstrable, in part through social media, whereas back in the first 70 years of TV, we really did not have the technology to prove anything) dissuades CMO's from throwing more of their precious marketing dollars down a PR medium (anything labelled a 'social' medium, like the telephone, is not an appropriate channel for marketing efforts), the smart marketers will realize that they need to put all their efforts into true 'pull' marketing, the best medium for which is Experiential.

However where the rest of marketing spending will eventually be channelled is into Fully Addressable Advertising, delivered via personal devices and tied to location based tracking. Google, Apple and Facebook are currently in a race to get there first. No one hates ads -- they hate ads that are irrelevant to them. Offer me an ad about the latest hot sports car and I'll watch a 10 minute version, then share it with all my buddies. I'll even watch an ad about the latest diaper technology if I have a new baby.

What I WILL NOT DO is watch any ad more times than I require to "get the point". I call it "The Death of Frequency". That shift, from familiar 'push' strategies to new and mysterious 'pull' is not something most marketers are comfortable even trying. Apple has been doing it for years.

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