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Part Cuatro: Social Media And The Ad Biz

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Social media… is it the Saviour or the Antichrist? Who knows? So far, we’ve got three parts to this tale of woe:

Part 1- A look at StrawberryFrog’s new social media campaign for Scion
Part 2 – AdWeak takes a look at the troubles of measuring the metrics
Part 3 – Deep Focus’ CEO shares some details about his agency’s social media practice

This morning, we decided to ask Tangerine Toad, an advertising blogger who spends oodles amounts of time blogging about social media, to take a stab at creating a primer of sorts about brands and social networking sites.

“Social media can prove to be a real landmine for marketers who cling to old ways of thinking. They’ve failed to grasp the crucial fact that while traditional advertising is all about delivering product news in an engaging manner, social media is all about delivering customer utility in an unobtrusive manner.

As a live demonstration of this sort of utility, I’ve pulled together a quick primer for those who are afraid they’ve missed the boat:

Your Brand Is Not My Friend

Remember this above all else. I am on Facebook or Twitter or a community message board to commune with my friends. Not your brand. And it’s kind of creepy when you insist on interrupting us with your unwanted presence and unwanted messages.

Unless, of course, you are a Prom King Brand. Prom King brands are those brands inexplicably imbued with a sense of cool (Apple, Starbucks, Virgin et. al, plus most any movie, TV show, sports team or music act.). I actually do want to hang out with those guys and be their friend. I’ll gladly add their badges to my Facebook page and even wear a hat with their logo on it. So they get to play by different rules.

If you’re not a Prom King brand, you’re not totally screwed. You just need to find a way to provide people with something they actually want. This is a tough one for most traditional marketers since they (a) have trouble accepting the fact that people don’t really feel passionately about their brand, and (b) nevertheless insist on inserting the brand’s granular offline marketing message into the social utility space where no one wants to hear it.

Now a good example of a non-Prom King brand that’s done Social Media right is TripAdvisor.com and their Cities I’ve Visited Facebook app. (Which is just that—an interactive map where you can kill an hour or two checking off all the places you’ve been to and then comparing it with your friends maps.) There’s no obsequious branding message lurking about the app and popping up like some latter-day Uriah Heep—the only message is that travel is a lot of fun and the only branding is a TripAdvisor logo. That’s it. They make their point, get out of the way and let you enjoy yourself. At its peak, the app had over 7.8 million users.

Social Media is a great research tool. As Ian Schafer mentioned in his previous piece, people actually say what they think about you and what they say isn’t always flattering. But you need to hear it. Need to hear that your new product isn’t as great as you think it is. Or that the only thing you’re doing right isn’t the thing you suspected. It’s where you want to start having conversations with your consumers and not dismissing them as “cranks.” Because a brand that listens to its customers is a brand they may someday call a friend.

Social Media is still in flux. We’re all still figuring this out daily. Unlike Web 1.0, most of the change in this space is driven by new technology. That means you have to stay up on what’s going on (e.g. do you know what Kyte is?) and keep an open mind as to what each new technology might make possible. Or, to put it another way, to always bear in mind that YouTube was originally supposed to be nothing more than a simple site where you could post videos for your in-laws.

Good luck.”

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