Saturday, 8 December 2012

Why "Social Media" are NOT Advertising Media

What if it was 1989 and the telephone had never been invented, but we had all the rest of human technology invented up to that point?  
We'd all be using the telegraph and the postal service to communicate.  Radio and television would likely have a slightly bigger role in our lives as we'd have no phone calls to interrupt our leisure activities, although all that letter writing and tap-tap-tapping of Morse Code into the home telegraph unit would be time consuming...

At the behest of the US military, a guy named Tim Berners-Lee creates this thing he calls the Internet to connect the databases of human knowledge that exist on local computer networks around the world into something called the World Wide Web.  It comes at vast expense for infrastructure as all the old copper telegraph lines have to be upgraded to fiber-optic around the world, but everyone agrees it seems worth it to be able to share all human knowledge virtually instantaneously.

On top of this, long-lasting rechargeable batteries and new 'wireless radio communication technology' is growing apace and the devices no longer have to be 'tethered' to power outlets and telegraph lines, so the potential is AMAZING! Companies scramble to use this new networking capability with new devices like laptop computers, handheld devices and tablets.

Then suddenly someone gets a bright idea....if we made a really small device, and used a small microphone, people could actually TALK TO EACH OTHER via these devices!  With video or without!  Wow!  Just recharge these little gadgets and you can talk to your mother, or your stock broker, or phone Procter & Gamble and have an engaging, two-way conversation about the latest developments on Pantene shampoo!

Now you KNOW what would happen, right?  The advertisers who had been using print, outdoor, TV and radio all these years to 'push' their message would scramble to exploit this new medium.  Yes, they've been experimenting with 'banner ads' and email spamming on the new Internet, but this 'telephone' medium was COOL!  It is one to one and suddenly everyone in the world is using it via wireless cellular phones.  The marketing hype people are screaming:
"YOU HAVE TO GO WHERE PEOPLE ARE!!! You have to advertise on these new phones!" 
Suddenly every brand not only needs a website, they need a phone number, a 1-800 line so that their consumers can call a computer to have engaging conversations about Dr. Scholl's foot powder.  It is going to be a marketers dream!  After all the confusion over which banner ads were best and print media budgets getting slashed, suddenly there's a new answer, a new medium to replace newspaper advertising!

And it's called: Telemarketing!

And at first it would seem like the Holy Grail because, sure enough, all the hyperactive 'early adopters' would be experimenting out the whazoo with these phones.  They'd be ignoring their real work to experiment with all you could do with them.  They'd be talking with their moms and their friends and colleagues and brand phone lines and complaint lines.  They'd be shouting from the rooftops about how cool this new medium was, and gradually all the rest of the bell curve would come on board and buy a phone, so it would seem like "telemarketing" was going to replace television advertising as the newest 'push' medium, as it had two-way 'social media' capabilities for brands to have 'two-way conversations'.

But after a while, the early adopters, those 'experimenters' who try every new thing and say it is the new Pet Rock, MySpace, or SecondLife, move on to something new.  They have figured out, in their hyper-intense, experimental ways, what the real long-term value of the medium is and they have registered those uses in their repertoire of technologies and they no longer are open to being interrupted while using it the way they were at first.

Gradually ALL the phone users figure out what is good and bad about the new devices/technology and they too start calling their Congressman to demand that an anti-telemarketing law be set up to prevent them from being interrupted at dinner time by unwanted phone calls.  [There is a reason that,
when cellphones came out, NO LISTINGS of those numbers were ever made public.  You cannot look up a cellphone number in the White Pages (.com).]

The problem is that once a TON of money has been shifted into a new medium by ALL of the world's marketers and agencies, and EVERYONE is fearful of missing a boat, people's mortgages and careers are now tied to this thing and they are so vested in it, they cannot let it go. 

What we now know is that the people who are coupon-addicted (there's actually a TV reality show about them: Extreme Couponing on TLC!) are now 'liking' FaceBook brand-fan pages to get coupons and discount offers in almost identical numbers to the percentage that they used to in clipping them from newspapers, fliers and inserts.  These are NOT new users, they've just shifted to a new medium.  The same is true of contest-addicts.  Does this mean brands have to have 'fan pages' on FaceBook?  Probably, but it is not the 'next big thing' to attract NEW users, experiential marketing is where all the big media dollars will eventually shift.

Again, if the medium has the word 'social' in it, it is not an advertising-appropriate medium.  That's just a simple insight into human nature based upon simple strategic thinking.  Thinking strategically about 'emerging media' is what I do before allowing my clients to get so hyped up that they cut a cheque to these two girls.  I can do it for your team.  ;-)

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