The Wall Street Journal published an online critique of social media last month (The Myth of Social Media) which added to the already roiling clouds in the advertising world. They supplied data from Gallup giving yet more evidence of the vastness of social media. Consider the following daily activity online:
- Facebook users post 4.75 billion items of content
- Twitter users send 400 million tweets
- Instagram users "like" 1.2 billion photos
- YouTube users watch 4 billion videos
And according to Gallup, "72% of U.S. adults use these channels, with the majority saying they use them several times a day." Why then does social media have such seemingly small impact?
The answer is simple: too many advertisers are talking - and not enough are listening. In other words, social media advertisers frequently ignore the most important aspect of the platform: social. Whether advertising with static ads or video, engagement is the key to success. For the advertising agencies which "grew up" producing television, print and radio spots, this has proven a hard concept to grasp.
Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit, says this of branding in the digital age: "A brand is no longer what we tell consumers it is - it is what consumers tell each other it is." Exactly.
Social media content - whether from a Fortune 100 corporation, a family owned business, a non-profit organization, a trade or membership association, or even a political campaign should - no, must - engage with social media users. In other words, it should be "social" and encourage consumer/member/donor/voter participation rather than just preach.
One quick example: Which company has more social media "clout"? Company ABC has 200,000 Facebook likes and 150 people active on their page, while Company XYZ has 20,000 likes and 10,000 people active on their page.
If you answered Company XYZ, you're correct! It doesn't do you any good to have 200,000 likes or followers or friends if no one is reading your content. And, Company XYZ, with the right digital strategy, can most likely grow its base very quickly online.
Sadly, there are many Company ABC's out there today. And they spend a great amount of money with ad firms who either don't understand they're not reaching anyone - or they just don't care enough about digital yet.
With Americans now spending more hours online each day than watching television, however, the opportunities are too great to ignore. And with the right engagement strategy, you won't be ignored by the audience you want to reach.