Ad Agencies Biggest Challenge With Social Media

Social relevance. Social Media is constantly evolving with meme’s, brand discussions, product rants and raves, funny concepts and ridiculous to the sublime for content. Generated by people as we know. Yet advertising has traditionally been a reflection of society.

Social Media, with so many channels (there’s over 60 different types of Social Networks) and so much happening so fast, it’s increasingly harder for an ad agency or market research agency to keep up. Funny and innovative content on the Web changes so quickly that by the time a creative director finds a clever way to tie in a product to a TV, radio, print or online ad, the concept is stale and the ad flops. No matter which medium it is carried in.

Then an ad appears or some form of campaign, it goes viral and reaches even beyond the original target audience that in effect it has no real effect on product sales as it was intended.

Print advertising as with radio, are still key elements for real marketing. Perhaps more so in one sense. Yet they are challenges for the ad agency who wants to find something of relevance across all mediums, in a timely manner.

Agencies will be under increasing pressure to generate creative concepts ahead of the consumer who is creating the content themselves.

What do you thunk?

(Author: Giles Crouch)

Keeping Your Mouth Shut In A Social Media Crisis

A co-worker or friend sends you a link to a blog post. Someone’s ranting about your company, or maybe about you. There it is. In digital print. For all the world to see. It’s on the Web. That means at that very moment, thousands upon thousands of eyes are reading it, laughing at you, gloating and preparing witty responses to the comment section. You simply must respond, jump to defend your brand, your personal image…you start to type. Stop. Stop it right now.

I’ve seen this reaction more than a few times in the past year. It usually comes with a phone call or email “I need help” because suddenly, it is a crisis. But if you hadn’t responded, hadn’t typed out that long-winded and certainly well justified response, it wouldn’t have escalated.

This response I think, is an inheritance of the days when all we had really was newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. And if something bad was said about you, then it probably was seen by a lot of people and a response was pretty much a necessity – since you’d likely get a call from a reporter, eager to pour some more wood on the fire.

Yes, anyone can publish anything they want to the Web today in moments. Without fact checking. But that doesn’t mean many have seen that smarmy tidbit of nastiness. In fact, only a few may see it.

So before you’re tempted to start madly typing, stop. It’s time for an assessment. The blogger in question may have little or no audience. The audience they may have may also be sycophants with little further influence. Do some queries on a search engine, see what pops up. Try to assess the circle of influence of the blogger and if the “story” has spread to other Social Media channels or if it may be newsworthy. Call your PR agency or a Social Media research/consulting firm and ask them to take a quick look. You’ll have a response fairly quickly on how to proceed.

But first, assess the story and the spread. If it’s minimal, don’t engage. As soon as you do, you’ve given them power and the cats out of the bag…hissing and ready to go. A whiff of controversy and the story will spread in moments.

Keep in mind, just cause it’s out there, doesn’t mean anyone’s reading it. Millions of blogs rarely get much traffic, ever. The upside may be instant publishing, the downside is it’s also harder to get noticed.

Or what would you recommend?

(Author: Giles Crouch)

What Newsgroups & Forums Can Teach Us

Newsgroups, forums and bulletin boards. They go back rather a long way in the ancient history of the Web…some as far back as the late 70′s and early 80′s, like the WELL (born out of the Whole Earth Catalog days.) And they remain a key place of conversation and opportunity for engagement.

Yet marketers often overlook them. Likely because those using them have guarded them well as a place for people, not companies. Although some companies have done well. For fans of Anne of Green Gables, production company Sullivan Entertainment has done very well providing forums for Anne fans. Mostly because they clearly understand the value of the newsgroups. While they may monitor them, they stay away from always trying to upsell – but rather wrap the forums access with merchandise. They built a brand following, long before blogs, Social Networks and Twitter popped onto the scene.

Forums, newsgroups and bulletin boards can be excellent sources of information. Sources that 98% of “reputation monitoring” services don’t cover. Gaining access in an automated fashion (i.e. through an API) is not always easy either.

But these social media channels are very active to this day and perhaps the least untouched and least touchable, by marketers. If you’re a marketer looking to push your product, tread gently. Protocols are strong in newsgroups and aggressively enforced.

As we do research into Social Media use, we spend a fair bit of time in these channels. There’s three key things I’ve taken away from spending many an hour validating our search results in them;

1. They are a channel that marketers have had little true success in. They are a place to truly have a conversation with your potential or current prospects. To do otherwise will end up in tears.

2. They are a very rich source of insights for public relations practitioners, product managers, researchers, sociologists an marketers. Perhaps a much undervalued one.

3. Not all online spaces are susceptible to marketing and public relations activities. When people just want to socialize, they can and will, make a place of their own.

A fairly decent free monitoring tool is BoardTracker; although not comprehensive, it does a pretty good job of digging into these channels. No reputation management tool has yet been able to conduct an automatic crawl however, and due to the technology, it may be a while yet. Our mediasphere360 is about as good, but manual validation and review remains vital.

So next time you’re planning for Social Media engagement, having  a look around newsgroups and forums; you may be quite surprised at what you uncover. Good and bad.

(Author: G. Crouch)

Will Social Media Kill Marketing As We Know It?

One of Canada’s top marketing minds, Mitch Joel, rightly asks that if the big companies and marketers have truly delved into the Social Media sphere, then is Social Media dead?

I wonder if perhaps the reverse is more true? Is marketing dying as a result of Social Media? Let’s face it, marketers walk an uneasy line of stretching the truth and so it’s no wonder that only 14% of people trust advertisements. As marketers, we’ve gone and shot ourselves in the foot.

Social Media is a ray of sunshine into media channels previously controlled by gatekeepers (editors, journalists, broadcast network owners)…and don’t they say sunshine is the ultimate disinfectant?

Each company that has waded into Social Media channels with a heavyweight or heavyhanded approach has suffered; Motrin, Nestle with Facebook (just this past week!), JetBlue, Rogers and so on.

It’s still far, far too early to make any concrete predictions when it comes to Social Media (no one is truly an expert yet in this space) and perhaps all we can say is that it will change. Quite significantly. People are only just finding their voices.

I suspect Social Media will thrive, while it is marketers (I’ve been one for nearly 20 years) will be the ones to suffer and businesses will adapt in whole new ways. Eventually. In the meantime, it’s going to be a rocky road…

What do you think?

(Author: Giles Crouch)

It’s Groups That Matter Most in Social Media

Sure, one guy wrote a song about his guitar being smashed and it resulted in fame for him and shame for United Airlines. But more often what should be of real concern in reputation management (on the downside) and brand building (on the upside) is not the individual, but groups of people.

What most large or small businesses are still not realizing is the major point behind Social Media; ease of group formation and loss of control of information.

Case in point is the HSBC student protest issue in 2007. This started when HSBC offered special pricing for students around the world. A few months later they withdrew this special, after luring hundreds of thousands of students into the bank.

HSBC thought “they’re trapped now, and they don’t know where to go.” Then a student started a Facebook group, and next thing, students were joining and telling each other how to change banks.

HSBC is worldwide. So is the Web and Facebook. As soon as the online protests threatened to spill over into real-world protests, HSBC caved in.

This is just one example of the two aspects businesses and now governments, are just starting to realize. It’s not just a business or government or other large entity that can coordinate large-scale activities and manage the necessary information aspect that goes with group coordination.

For marketers, the group is more important to reach than the individual. Target the group, understand a) how they’re coordinating and b) what information they’re managing. From there you can reach the individual.

It is the ability to form groups that matters most in regards to Social Media for both online reputation management as well as brand building through Social Media.