In This Article on GigaOM, Liz Gannes reported on some statements made at the OMMA Global conference by Mark Kvamme, an industry insider, where he basically stated that if marketers harness the power of Social Media, they shouldn’t have to pay for advertising anymore.
It’s a bold statement (which goes over well at industry conferences I hear). And if you’re interested in the finer points of his argument, feel free to read through Gannes piece which seemed to cover the supporting arguments pretty well (shrewedly highlighting the vested interest the speaker had for at least some of his remarks). But for the real fun – as happens so often in the online world – DON’T forget to read the comments.
I mean, sure – the idea that some new platforms like Twitter or Facebook or others have low or no cost of entry is wonderful, and when we are convincing stakeholders of opportunities for testing and learning we advise Clients to avoid sinking crazy amounts of money in developing ‘owned’ platforms. But to take this fact and leap to say that user generated media equates to free marketing is missing some crucial considerations, and it can be misleading for Clients who are entering the space.
1. Just because you have a message, doesn’t mean anyone wants to hear it. If we start from examining Human Behavior, then - don’t take it personally – no one wants to be ‘friends’ with your Brand’s Mission Statement. Brands should take time and care to determining their place, actions, and voice in social media, and ‘tune’ them in order to participate fluidly and gracefully. This is not child’s play. Look at marketers do it consistently well – do they seem to be careless in terms of their approach? Are they repeating their :30 tagline on their Facebook page?
2. And just because users can spread your message doesn’t mean that they will. Figuring out why people may want to pass on a message or ask their friends to do something has to be considered in the actual development of what that message or experience is. This takes time, effort and yes, investment. In fact you may need to be monitoring the space, because if they are already talking about you, they are quite likely not using your talking points. And trust me, there are lots of companies out to make money on the fact that these tools need power and utility, as well as smart people to use them. Even Coke’s Facebook success in supporting a pair of fans who started their page is a tribute to targeted investing. Coke recognized their fans’ serious skills – then rewarded and supported them. If passion in the community is there then you’ve got a good shot, but the work doesn’t stop there.
3. There’s more to it than just ‘do it’. I find comments like ‘Brands just need to harness the power of social media’ or ‘you just need to figure out how to work in this new world’ are pretty glib statements. Brands can test and learn here, sure, but perhaps an approach might be nice? Maybe something that starts with questions like, ‘Are my customers using these tools? Or are the influencers of my customers using these tools?’ Maybe I need to consider producing some content for users to interact with? Be on the lookout for an article by Michelle Davidson, a colleague of mine, talking about the hidden high cost of User Generated Content. She and others are talking about behavioral economics and user expectations in social media spaces – and yes, you may have to ‘give to get’. Placing any old content into any old free platform does not constitute a strategic use of social media, nor does it guarantee you an overnight success story in terms of viral buzz.
4. Speaking of viral buzz – just because a video ‘went viral’ does not mean that no money was spent on it. There are actually processes and procedures that marketers and agencies can put in place to help successful videos to spread faster and get into featured lists. And even if the production is done on a dime, the idea needs to be developed in the first place. But don’t assume the inverse of this thinking proves the rule: your :30 spot may not have viral potential. Too often it is tempting to think that ‘We spent all this money on this commercial – of COURSE it has viral potential.’ Sadly, this may not necessarily be true, and all the preparation in the world can’t make up for the fact that there really are ‘different horses for different courses’.
I could go on and on, like how calling online marketing ‘Advertising’ gets my blood boiling, but in the end I think that a successful marketer will strive to understand the social space and how to use it, which takes investigation, thinking, planning, creativity and yes – investing. I would agree with the speaker that social media has changed things for marketers hugely, and how they spend their money is one of the most important considerations they have to make right now. But I don’t think that soundbites about marketing being free are helpful or accurate. Free doesn’t come cheap.
Disclaimer: I was working in my office during the convention: I wasn’t there. Maybe he added some caveats?