To celebrate the release of Engage!, I was recently asked to share my thoughts on how social media impacts the advertising landscape for the current issue of Winning the Web, a popular magazine related to Web marketing. While the discussion opens with a review of the state and future of online advertising, the discussion also looks at the overall tectonic shift in new media and the profound opportunities that are unfolding.
With Ad:Tech San Francisco on the horizon, the timing couldn't be better to share the entire interview with you here.
Do you feel that there is a place for online advertisers and brands within the social media landscape, or do you think most "just don't belong" there?
Online advertisers and brands indeed have a role in the social media landscape, it's just different now. Brands, as well as the online advertisers and marketers that support them, are presented with a new opportunity to make direct connections that still yield traditional results but also set the stage for webwide advocacy and evangelism. To lure attention, the commitment changes from simply paying for visibility and investing in the story, visuals, and also offering a return for engagement, shifting from visibility to presence, which is felt. Essentially, paid media is becoming instrumental in triggering earned media in order to activate visitor experiences and activity.
Do you feel social media is being well-utilized by most companies or corporate entities today?
I believe that in order for companies to realize success in social media, they must become media. Many brands review case studies and plow through customer success stories as a form of inspiration for the experiments and endeavors. We assume, erroneously, that these examples apply to our business and more importantly, we presume that these examples represent success that was predefined methodically implemented.
This is much more than collecting followers, fans or clickthroughs. It's now the responsibility of the brand to program meaningful content that creates branded, yet personalized experiences to steer activity, offer guidance, provide resolution, and also spark word of mouth.
Look into your crystal ball - in three years, what do you think social media will mean and/or encompass?
Social Media will essentially become "Media" as we return to the ongoing evolution of new media. Social Media provided everyday users with powerful publishing platforms and the ability to establish influence, introducing production into the consumer consumption equation. It did not, however, change the need to rise above the noise by connecting people and content in order to raise awareness and cause measurable action.
The road to the future begins with understanding that attention is finite and is increasingly thinning, therefore we must connect with individuals where, when, and how their attention is focused. Technology is going to help, but we must help ourselves by introducing relevance, findability, and shareability into the mix. Intelligent filtering will become part of the consumption process, empowering consumers to view the most material information based on their behavior and connections. Priority will focus on aligning, qualifying, and presenting content sourced from the social graph and varying degrees of friends of friends networks.
There have been numerous stories written about companies and brands trying to monetize social media. Do you think these efforts are fruitless or do you feel social media can or should be money-making areas for advertisers?
Social Media is not owned by any one department and as such, the tools and services that populate the new media landscape should be viewed as just that, tools and services. It's not unlike email for example. Every division affected by outside activity will require an external presence to influence respective activity that positively impacts online societies. As such, monetizing social media becomes an extension of various sales strategies that present those populating a social brand graph (connections forged in social networks related to brands) with offers, specials, rewards, incentives, discounts, etc. Many consumers have shouted in recent surveys that they hope and even expect to receive exclusive opportunities to purchase products or services via social channels such as Twitter and Facebook.
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