Do Advertisers Miss the Real Opportunities?

against-the-flow

In June 2008, McKinsey & Company surveyed marketing executives around the planet to find out how they viewed digital media as a form of advertising and how to measure the impact.  Surprisingly, not much progress had been made from 2007 to 2008 in determining the metrics of online advertising, especially in the areas of social media or the offline impact of online advertising.   It seems that the majority of those surveyed used “subjective judgment” and repeated allot of what they did the year before.

Which raises the question regarding use of our new online social tools to reach people and the speed to which they become available.  How do you keep up?  I remember when Twitter appeared.  I looked at it and wondered “why?”  Soon thereafter I had an “aha!” moment and jumped into the micro-blogging realm and saw the opportunity to build relationships and see the vast amount of opportunities they “tweeted” about with enthusiasm.  In the end, I was able to also share my new media productions, insights, thoughts and opinions.  I also remember when YouTube arrived on the scene.  I thought to myself, “that’s cool” and saw it as a place to post short home made videos and to share experiences.  Then I had another “aha!” moment and realized the value of sharing video and the broad scope of applications the medium provided.  And even now, not a week goes by where another new way to share, communicate and socialize appears on the web.  So now the question becomes, if fast and faster change keeps coming…how will I ever keep up?

I guess the lesson learned from stumbling across new tools, widgets and gadgets that appear today is to stop and pause.  To get over the initial reaction of the medium cool factor and see the opportunities within that platform.  If a platform or tool is viewed from the perspective as another opportunity, then the mind will get to work and figure out ways to use the medium to send the message you want.  But is using tools for an end purpose really connecting?  Or is connecting with the hope of a positive outcome the way to go?

There’s the rub with trying to keep up with the digital world.  The challenge that marketing executives have is two-fold.  They sell results and they need to be able to measure.  The small business check book management approach or even simpler, the “business has picked up” view does not work.  I even heard a marketing person say recently (regarding the use of Social Media) “I made allot of friends, but I don’t think we sold anything.”  Marketing execs need to know what worked and why and how it impacted the overall goals of the campaign.  If they cannot measure the success, they can’t sell or know how to charge for it.  Again the question, build relationships first or sell first then build relationships?  In my opinion, the answer is easy.  Build relationships, for if you do a good job at this, results will come (most likely long term results.)

If you are a part of the “we need to do this crowd” let me give you some ideas on why use of the Social Media piece of online advertising is a must do.  Regardless of the metrics.

  • I remember back in the 80’s management gurus told us to “manage by wandering around” to “talk to your customer” and to get feedback.  Social Media is an amazing platform to do just that (if you really want to hear what your customer has to say.)  Social Media enables you to target communities of like minded people to engage.  It enables you to have a conversation and more importantly to build a relationship.  This micro-relationship may not take into account the millions of people who drink your soft-drink, buy your food product or wear your clothes, but if the community is selected carefully, you can get tremendous insights into what your users want and need.  And no amount of metrics can replace that knowledge.
  • The use of Social Media enables you to see and feel the pulse of the community.  I cannot tell you how many times I see a comment like, “I wish someone would come up with something that would do (fill in the blank).”  You may have that product in beta and you just found a great person to test the product and give you feedback.  Think about this, how often do you test a new product and find it very difficult to get real feedback.
  • If you still walk around the mall you will still see people with clipboards attempting to stop you and ask you a handful of survey questions.  You want a survey answered honestly with legitimate insights into the needs of your customer?  Go online into a community where you have developed a relationship and simply ask.  You will get  your answers.
  • Social Media is inexpensive.  Ok, before you jump down my throat and give me the cost of keywords, the expense of web-site maintenance and the price of click-through ads, please hear me out.  All those things will give you traffic and presence. But will they introduce me to you in some personal way?  Probably not.  Will the response to a Twitter or Facebook update that leads to a real conversation on how to improve the product and services you offer?  Yes, it will.  And the conversation did not incur the cost of the web banner, the ad or the MySpace video production.  How many products and services get launched around the world everyday and fail?  Allot.  How many could have survived if someone had a way to tap into the end user and find ways to help them more, serve them better or deliver a better product?  That question is rhetorical and I don’t know the answer.  But I am confident enough in the comment to say, “many more.”

So in the end what do we do?  We don’t have unlimited funds.  We have limited time, people, energy and resources.  Here are a few things that fall under the category “Food for Thought.”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

  • What if every organization small and large had one person dedicated to using the web and its Social Media tools to try to connect with people?  What if that person was the CEO? Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com is legendary for reaching out to his customers and engaging them on Twitter, find him at http://twitter.com/zappos (oh, he has over 56K people that he follows and converses with as of this morning.)  Maybe he has something figured out.
  • What if the purpose of using Social Media to reach out was not one way, but two way.  Conversations are two way.  Is it possible for marketers to give before they try to take?  Can we build trust and relationships first?  Chris Brogan and Julien Smith call trust the new currency, if you don’t get it read their complementary e-book “Trust Economies.”
  • What if someone in every organization was in charge of finding “like minded” communities and engaging those communities?
  • What if the metric was the success we have in building relationships, not the immediate results.  Relationships are the ultimate long-tail.

As advertisers struggle with lower budgets and a soft economy maybe a drop of focus should go into connecting with people and building a plan to “wander around the Social Media space” and find out how close you can really get to your customers.

Then you have a new question, how long can you make your tail?

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