Archive for the ‘Marketing Links’ Category

Best Buy TV Ad SpendingToday Ad Age reported that Best Buy is shifting more advertising dollars to TV this holiday season.

The consumer electronics giant wouldn’t give exact figures, but it is increasing its spending by a low double- digit percentage. In 2009, it spent $150 million on TV advertising, according to Kantar; network TV ads accounted for $65 million of that figure. To free up funds for TV, the retailer is pulling money away from inserts and trimming distribution in parts of the country where newspaper readership has suffered.

Quoting a Best Buy exec: “When you have big budgets like we do, a 5% to 10% improvement is a big deal.”

What’s Good For The Goose…

Believe it or not, as a digital strategist, I am actually thrilled to see this move and think it is wholeheartedly the right one – because it is supported by sophisticated media mix models that predict the impact and outcome of the media investments. Make no mistake about it – media mix econometric modeling is neither simple nor absolute, but more companies need to attempt to crack this nut. Unfortunately, today a lot of media investment is based on intuition and debate under the guise of collaborative channel planning, rather than a systematic approach to modeling a mix. And BTW – you don’t need a nine figure budget to take a deeper look at the way your media works together. You may not be able to develop the sophistication level of a comprehensive econometric model, but there are so many different ways to analyze your data. It starts with the desire to do so and a lack of aversion to walk outside of your comfort zone – because trust me, that’s where you’ll be very quickly.

Based on the model’s recommendations, Best Buy has also tweaked its digital spending, putting more money into display advertising. And it’s also considering putting more money into events. Mr. Panayiotou said that the model made other suggestions, which the retailer is still evaluating. His team is looking at everything from events to the loyalty program, digital to online search.

The fact of the matter is that all media spend, whether direct response or branding focused, has the same objective – to influence and sell product to consumers. The primary difference is where in the sales cycle you reach a consumer and how long it takes to influence the sale. This is extremely over simplified, but a fact nonetheless.

Media Investment Predictability

The beauty of the concept of GRP’s is that a historical level of media weight could somewhat reliably predict the business outcome in the market. One of the challenges of digital media for large brand advertisers is that, unlike traditional media, it’s hard to predict the outcome in the market as a result of ad spending. To a degree this is because of the small budget allocations to digital, but is also due to the differences in media currency and the lack of significant corollary research on investment impact. Many brands believe in the power of digital media, but most have yet to quantify the marginal increase to their businesses as media dollars get shifted between traditional and digital media. We can talk ad nauseum about how digital is an essential part of the mix (and it is!) – but as an industry we must do a better job at proving it.

Digital Media is Growing Up

Of course, within the digital ecosystem there is significant evolution all around us. The market is still dominated by direct response marketers – and supports these efforts at scale. Most DR marketers have yet to hit a point of diminishing returns and the market is evolving to push that point even further. Even within this space most agencies and marketers fail to use available tools like attribution reporting to properly model a digital mix and prevent duplicate tracking and over-crediting of activation channels like search and retargeting – a huge issue that plagues every multi-channel digital marketer, particularly retailers, whether they take the time to realize it or not.

As marketers get savvier about the word “accountability” not equating to “direct response”, we will see  more branding dollars shifting to the web. But this won’t happen until every company has a champion to drive modeling that incorporates  and measures digital in a more intelligent fashion than is happening  today, where we use disconnected proxy metrics and great salesmanship to feed into brands’ (and often our own) desire to want to believe in digital. DO believe – digital media IS integral to your or your clients’ businesses. But take a systematic approach to how everything works together, because it’s only becoming more  fragmented and complicated. CMO’s today have a tough job, and they are dropping like flies, with an average tenure being less than 2 years. Maybe  the role of the CMO needs a fundamental shift. Maybe the transformation is underway already. Enter the era of the “Chief Modeling Officer”.

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At the risk of sounding cliche, welcome to a new decade of marketing. Indeed it is an exciting time to be a marketer. The past decade may prove to be the most pivotal ever in terms of the changes in how we communicate with consumers. It was also the decade of aggregation – or better put, the decade that killed the “big idea”. The era of the big idea is over (in the context of marketing communication). Since the explosion of digital marketing during the last decade, the new big idea morphed into an aggregation of many smaller “ideas”. This aggregation has a bigger impact than any one “big idea” ever could, by distributing risk and providing more chances to develop successful approaches.

Marketing evolution continues in 2010, and here are some of the areas to keep your eyes on.

Mobile Forges Forward

We keep joking about how “this year has been the year of mobile for the last few years”. Well, we’re waist deep the age of mobile and moving further along every day. We’ve crossed the proverbial tipping point. The handsets and data speeds provide better experiences, and the data plans are affordable. Over 60 million US consumers access the web via mobile device.  Globally we’re on track for more people to access the mobile web than the PC web (of course I’ll need to save that post for Jan 2020). The thing is, the distribution of this access is skewed, significantly towards the iPhone. While the iPhone catalyzed mobile web usage, competition is not far behind with the Droid, Pre, new Blackberries and other devices to come in 2010. Consumers are using, and even paying for mobile applications and mobile websites that provide value. Of course, as with any marketing channels, there are plenty of misguided executions that do not focus on the consumer, provide little value and flop. Unfortunately oftentimes the medium gets blamed for poor strategy on the part of the marketer and/or agency. Provide experiential or utility-based value to consumers and you’ll reap the rewards of consumer engagement. Additionally, keep your sights set on the convergence of mobile and social experiences as well. This will prove big in 2010.

Location Based Applications

As consumers become more comfortable with GPS enabled smart phones and the first generation of applications that incorporate GPS into the experience, the marketing opportunities that utilize geo-location data will come to fruition. However, it will be 100% predicated on permission, transparency and trust. Of course the recurring theme of providing actual value to the consumer experience is key as well. An early success story is FourSquare, which combines social actions and geo-tagging. But FourSquare is definitely not for everyone. Marketers will have to provide utility in order to gain access to consumers’ private lives and  geo-location data. A few bad apples can spoil the bunch very easily here. Where your brand attributes meet consumers’ needs is a good crossroads to  aim for. Note: If would be interesting to see Facebook acquire and incorporate FourSquare into their current platform.

Real Time Search & Social Search

As social media has become ingrained in the digital media experience for consumers and marketers alike, real time search was inevitable. Information is distributed via so many channels including consumers’ social media feeds, that not including real time data in search results created a void in the relevancy of search results at the major engines. Google’s roll out of social search results from “people in your social circle” also fills the void that was otherwise filled directly from the social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Real time search will indeed make search results more relevant, but the algorithms for filtering signal to noise will be an interesting evolution to watch and participate in.  The implications for marketers is a new era of SEO that ties even more tightly into social media.

Social Media Expands Its Journey

There are two major areas to keep an eye on here. First is the portable social graph. Facebook Connect really took off in 2009, and 2010 marks the tipping point for social graph / data portability. The social graph is just beginning to become part of the overarching digital platform. Through this ubiquity consumers are empowered, taking the influence and social activities of their social connections with them everywhere they go (well not everywhere, but soon enough). Check out one of my favorite implementations of Facebook Connect so far in the Prototype trailer. Try it out. It takes a minute to load, but it’s worth the wait.

The social graph has become portable on the PC-based and mobile web, and the second area to keep an eye on is the expansion of the social graph to your television. Samsung was the first to release high end flat screen TV’s with internet based widgets that allow you to access Twitter on your TV (currently via Yahoo, but inevitably this will become more open very soon). Expect the social graph to become a standard part of our TV viewing experience in the future (note: not in 2010).

Multiple Attribution

While all marketers would agree that reaching consumers at multiple marketing touch points is essential, most marketers still maintain disparate data systems and utilize the last ad standard protocol when it comes to attribution of influence or conversion.  Multiple attribution tracking capabilities have existed at the major ad servers for a couple of years now, provide a solution to attribution modeling, yet are underutilized by the industry. Third parties, such as ClearSaleing, also offer dashboard, reporting and analytics platforms to provide multiple attribution reporting for marketers. Let’s face it, we are constantly increasing the number of digital marketing channels we are working in and as an industry our analytical capability, or more accurately – marketers’ and agencies’ willingness to utilize the tools available,  has been lagging behind . Some of the dashboard tools can also incorporate a limited set of non digital channels as well. If you are not using a multiple attribution system currently, make 2010 the year to do so. There is simply no excuse not to.

The Privacy Issue Marches On

Privacy is always a heated topic. This has been true since the dawn of digital data collection. The issue is over-hyped by the media and advocacy groups, however there are some underlying truths to the hype. As we have seen with the privacy policy changes on Facebook over the last year, if nothing else, consumers do pay attention and now have the means to spread the word quickly.  As digital marketing technologies evolved, more parties gained access to more data. Although most of this data does not actually contain personally identifiable (PII)  data, in some instances it can be associated with other data assets that do. Tying the  vast amounts of anonymous and PII data together will become a bigger focus of the FTC and advocacy groups as the portable social graph  continues to morph the internet as we knew it into one big social web. The FTC warned the industry in 2009 that a day of reckoning was near, and that the self governance was not working due to a lack of enforcement. The industry will have to take the issue more seriously in 2010 or the government will do so for us.

Augmented Reality

For the uninitiated, augmented reality (AR) is conceptually any technology that ties the real and virtual world’s together. For the mobile device, AR will utilize the built in GPS, compass and video camera, creating an unlimited potential to layer content onto any physical location in the real world. On the PC, AR utilizes the webcam to overlay data, usually in the form of a virtual hologram. Most of the augmented reality executions to-date have focused on the novelty factor and have not provided consumers with much actual value. The few mobile AR applications available, including Yelp, are beginning to provide actual utility. I see a bright future there. On the PC side of things, the USPS Priority Mail box simulator is by far the most useful application of PC/webcam based AR implementation to date.

The key to AR is to hone in on the utility aspect, and provide real value to the consumer. (That concept is starting to sound awfully familiar, huh)

Long Live Display

Display ads get a bad rap. The reality is that online advertising works, and not only for direct response. While search see’s the lion’s share of industry ad spending, display is a standard part of the mix and will continue to be for the long term. That is not to say that display doesn’t have its issues. Lack of creative prowess, challenges with media currency and an inefficient process still plague the industry, but all are common topics of conversation and ad hoc work-arounds are being implemented every day. Most agencies and media buyers have had to develop large infrastructures to support the inefficiency of digital media. Clients constantly challenge the process and costs. Yet very little industry-level research is being conducted to better the situation. The IAB, nor any other industry body has set forth to develop the correlational research required to make advertisers feel more comfortable about the market-level impact of online advertising. The last industry-level research was released almost 10 years ago. Some individual agencies embark on this type of research on a client by client basis, but there is little public domain research readily available for most marketers, who for the most part, park the vast majority of their brand budgets elsewhere. Hopefully in 2010 we will see more industry collaboration to develop research and studies and the tools and systems to create more efficiency in the media buying and management process, without commoditizing it.

Even with all that said, display ads do work at creating influence, this can be and is measured by many marketers and agencies, and display is a standard part of the media mix just like any other medium. The degree of inclusion is what is in question, and hopefully we will at least see more discussion and proposed improvements that make advertisers confident to allocate more brand dollars online.

The Elephant in The Room … The Economy

All indicators lead to a slow and steady economic recovery ahead of us.  But this will happen at a different pace for each category and client. The reality for digital marketing is that most marketers have not been and won’t be experimenting much, and focusing on the more accountable (read – DR) focused channels and tactics. I do expect budgets to open up for social media and mobile. Amid the greatest recession of our lives we witnessed the explosive growth of social media. Some marketers had the budgets to allocate proper resources to understanding, monitoring and integrating social media into their corporate culture, while others put forth a minimal effort and yielded an equal impact. The brands that embraced social media have developed social voices separate from their brand voices and are on their way to becoming accepted social brands. Most are still playing catch-up, and we’ll see a lot of that in 2010.

So there you have it, some areas to keep your sights set on for 2010 and beyond. Have any additional thoughts about what else will be big in 2010? Post your ideas in the comments.

The TV spots weren’t thrilling me, but this longer piece of content is pretty damn funny! I was beginning to doubt Crispin Porter on the whole Gates/Seinfeld thing until I saw this. Coupled with the Mac-counter image campaign, which includes a consumer collaboration running in Times Square, I’m thinking that I owe the campaign a second opinion 🙂

Marketers and agencies pay attention – the future of mobile is unfolding before our eyes, and it is important to understand the foundational building blocks of how this is all happening and what it means for us…

The industry’s been eager for the release of the first Android OS mobile device, which together with the cult-like movement of the iPhone, will be catalysts for our mobile future. T-Mobile revealed the device as the G1. We’ve all been previously referring to this device as the HTC Dream.

The focal point of Android is of course an open platform, but apparently  it is launching with a significant dependence on third party developers to add some advanced functionality to what seems like a basic default feature set. According to the Android Developer’s blog, the Android Market (app store equivalent) will allow any applications to be offered.

We chose the term “market” rather than “store” because we feel that developers should have an open and unobstructed environment to make their content available.

While the potential benefits of this openness are evident to guys like me, unfortunately this is not a selling point to the average Joe! That being said, remember that over 100 million apps have been sold in Apple’s app store, 10 million in the first weekend release of the 3G iPhone alone.

Will Android stack up? Well, not at first – mainly because we are only talking about one initial device from a carrier that is not exactly the market leader, T-Mobile., not to mention the lack of enterprise support like syncing with exchange. Seriously, what is with first generation launches lacking support for the people who want these devised the most!

The first generation iPhone took 74 days to sell 1 million devices, while the second generation took just one weekend to do the same. In a device driven consumer market, Android is not about the device but the open nature of the operating system. Although the iPhone has a unique OS as well,  it is the pop culture icon that Apple has become and the slick device design that sells the phones, not the OS. The HTC device I’m sure is well crafted. I have used nothing but HTC phones for the last 4 years – they rock – plain and simple. The marketing message of “Hey get an Android phone and support the next generation of the open mobile web and application ecosystem” is a difficult one for the average consumer – you and I may be sold, but the average Joe is another story and will take time.

A couple of key take aways about the T-Mobile G1…

A Few Downsides

– No ability to sync exchange (sorry, that’s a killer for me!)

– No desktop application or syncing

– Many features are going to be 3rd party dependent and not present yet

– The only current video capabilities are YouTube videos (what!?!)

– Soft cap of 1GB data transfer per month with T-Mobile’s option to throttle back to a mere 50kbps!!! (bad, very bad)

A Few Upsides

– 3G Speed (with the exception of the last point above)

– The potential feature set from the openness to third parties

– Touch screen AND QWERTY keyboard (good ‘ol HTC)

– Integrated Google Maps & Street View

If you are wondering why all of this all matters to you, the marketer or agency, it is because that the future of mobile marketing is bright and  we have entered a in a new phase of evolution that will soon become part of your marketing plan if it has not done so already.

Thank you to MediaPost for publishing a version of my “Magical Parallel Universe” rant…

Did the title of this post pique your interest? Good. This is a hot topic of conversation.

Are you a traditional marketer or agency person, or even a digital agency person who is frustrated at the new crop of “social media elite” who claim that they know all the answers? Or…are you a social media marketing maven who is frustrated that the rest of the industry just doesn’t get it?

Ok, be forewarned that this post is a little bit of a rant. I straddle both sides of this argument, but I’m equally invigorated, frustrated and amused at the state of affairs in the marketing industry today. This battle between the old guard and those who are trying to become the new guard is a repetition of history and has created more confusion than it has solved.

Does the following sound familiar to you?

Agency Person or Marketer:I’ve read a lot of research about how consumers are spending uber amounts of time in social media environments. How do I engage [or insert other descriptive verb here: tap into, leverage, reach] consumers within these environments?

Social Media Maven:OMG you used that verb? You clearly don’t understand what social media means. Let’s look into my crystal ball and I’ll give you some clues.

Agency Person or Marketer:Ok so I get the fact that social media is different, but how do I measure this? How do I understand what return I can get?

Social Media Maven: Hold me back, I think I’m gonna hurl. ROI? You actually think that I can clearly explain to you how to measure social media? You have so much to learn grasshopper.

Agency Person or Marketer: What about your clients? How are they engaging consumers in social media? Are they?

Social Media Maven: If I filled you in on all the details I’d have to kill you, sorry.

Agency Person or Marketer:But I’m running a business. I measure everything. Just because I want to measure the return of a marketing investment doesn’t make me a direct marketer. I measure my TV, I measure my online advertising, I measure our existing research projects, heck, I even measure the impact of using different materials to build our products and what it means to our business. How is social media any different?

Guys and gals I got news for you – the internet and it’s diverse sub-segments are not magical parallel universes, rather, an extension of the world we live in. Granted, social media growth is the biggest shift in “media behavior” since search (or maybe video was the next after search). But truth be told, the social media mavens are right in stating that it’s not really media at all…well, not in the way we used to look at media, as a channel to distribute messages to audiences (advertising). But that doesn’t mean that you can’t advertise in social media environments. It means that this is just one cog of a much bigger picture. Are the integrated deals on MySpace not advertising? Sure they are – yes I know, it’s marketing not advertising, but isn’t there an advertising component to it? Why do we argue that aspect of the merging of various marketing disciplines?

A Celebration of Integration
Let’s also not forget that all of this fits into the bigger picture of a multi-platform marketing communications plan. Integration with the bigger picture is a point often left out of the social media conversation, and I think that’s a big mistake. Ultimately the barrier to big agencies and brands understanding how to include social media in their marcom is simply an acquisition or the hiring of a few people who have experience. The theme of the times is centralization and integration. Clients do not want the splintering to continue. Might we take a step backwards before taking two integrated steps forward? Maybe. So be it. It’s bound to be where we will end up.

A New Discipline?
Is social media a new discipline? Maybe. It certainly represents the blurring of media, marketing, creative, technology PR and research. One of the challenges this presents is where the budgets come from and whose responsibility it is to manage. Don’t forget that 10 years or so ago many marketers were still challenged with figuring out whether their “online budgets” came from IT or marketing. We can now look back and laugh at that position. Social media will present an additional hurdle of meaning different things to different brands, based on what your brand means to the consumer. But the benefits of potentially connecting with consumers on a deeper level is huge, and truly the fact that the social media evangelists are trying to convey – observe, monitor, and listen before trying to become part of the experience or conversation.

Ode to the Old School
Agencies and brands don’t fret – you are not crazy nor are your years of marketing experience not translatable to an understanding of how to work in the social media ecosystem. Sorry if my social media brethren offer such elitist views at times. I’ve had too many discussions and overheard/observed/read too many conversations posts from bloggers and the growing “Twitterati” (who often spend more time tweeting amongst themselves than actually DOING anything) about how ten relationships are innately worth more than a million impressions. How arrogant and uninformed to think that this rule can be universally true. It all comes down to the definition of a relationship and the quality of the consumer feedback. For many marketers, this will be a factor of what their brands and businesses mean to consumers. Social media becomes a valuable feedback loop or research base for some brands, and for others it’s insignificant. Yeah I said it – social media can be insignificant for many brands. Are a small group of influencers truly worth that much more than the masses of followers who can be reached via many means? The majority of your brand’s consumers and potential customers will never interact with you nor the posts of the influencers within social media. Deal with it. Those evangelizing social media are all vying for the same clients. The largest brands with the strongest brand personality, the brands that consumers are already proud to be associated with, who stand the most to lose or gain by working within or ignoring social media. The other day an industry colleague, Alan Wolk, referred to these brands quite accurately as “Prom King brands”, I’d recommend reading the Ad Week article here.

Research, PR, Damage Control
Social media as a research lab? Sure, go for it – but the value is relative to the investment and commitment to striking a balance between an authentic experience to the consumer and to providing benefit to the brand. So maybe the question marketers should be asking is not how to use social media, but how much to invest, which again, is a function of how consumers perceive our brands and what social media means to THEM – not to US. No matter how hard we try to be consumer centric, it seems that it always comes back to that being a bigger buzz-phrase than any other. So social media as a research lab seems like a good starting point for any brand.

While it’s great to see brands create new social media extensions to monitor and deal with consumers’ feedback and complaints, don’t forget that you can’t please all the people all the time. Any researcher would largely discount the feedback of the polar ends of positive and negative opinion, which does not represent the market as a whole. This is not to say ignore the customer. It only means that you must manage investment in the polar ends of opinion.

All Roads Lead to Rome
Seriously guys – we shouldn’t worry about measuring investment return? If I hear that one more time, I’m going to get sick. The purpose of all marketing investments is the same. To sell stuff. The only difference between disciplines is where in the influence and decision cycle the investment impacts consumers and how easy or difficult it is to measure the potential impact. No marketing investment is made for fun, whether branding, direct response, relationship marketing, research, PR, social media or otherwise.

I promised a bit of a rant here, so there you have it. I’m frustrated that some of us make it so complicated for agencies and marketers to try to understand rather than working hand in hand to play nicely in the sandbox, experiment further and keep the consumer as the focal point of our decision making process. Agree, disagree? Have some great case studies you want to share? Connect with me on Twitter: @JasonDPG or on Facebook. Hey look ma, I’m using social media!

As if the fragmentation of media itself wasn’t enough, agencies these days are wrought with such a hyper-evolutionary state of marketing disciplines across the board, it’s often mind boggling. So today I want to revisit one the fundamental reason why I started this blog – to focus on the blurring of media, marketing, creative & technology.

The New Agency Structure

The new agency will emerge from the old agency structure and will be similar, except it won’t. Continued consolidation and agency service re-bundling will be driving the charge forward. To a degree agencies are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Reinventing yourself takes time and money. In order to prevent an agency’s value from being commoditized and to compete against a swarm of small and nimble specialists in the market requires experience and attentive focus on the details and nuances of each channel and discipline. To date most of the major agencies who have accomplished this have done so via acquisition. Some have attempted organic development, but rarely has organic growth in specialized digital marketing proven to be successful (prove me wrong). But for mid-sized agencies, the newer marketing specialties are predominantly outsourced, thus eroding their market potential and margins, and ultimately the perceived strategic value to clients. It is essential for agencies to have a well rounded suite of digital services. As clients become more savvy, and more emphasis shifts to digital over the next several years, this will increasingly be the case. Particularly because of the blurring of once linearly separated disciplines.

Media is changing drastically (I know, a resounding “DUH” is reverberating in your head after reading that statement of the over obvious). But articulating how it has changed and what it means to the development of your agency is the key to successfully changing along with it. Whereas, generally speaking, the application of marketing within media would fall into clearly defined pillars of “advertising” or “PR”, each with some subsegments that were somewhat also clearly defined. We are now entering a chaotic era of something beyond fragmentation – it is the splintering of media. A special note for the digirati that read my blog, this pertains to all media, not just what we now refer to as digital channels – ie: there are more out-of-home and broadcast opportunities than ever before, and VOD is bound to become true iTV one day in the future as well. The introduction and mass adoption of social media tools has created a market of engagement and conversation that cuts across the lines of media, creative, technology and PR. Social networking, blogging, microblogging, reblogging, lifestreaming (ok, so some of these activities are not yet “mass” as we would define the term) create the need to monitor not just measure, they create the need to immerse vs. flight campaigns, they ultimately force marketers to participate and actually become consumer centric, finally. Online macro and micro communities that may be relevant to your brand or product will congeal and self perpetuate within the context of a lifestyle or topical interest that can involve your brand or product, positively or negatively, whether you like it or not, with or without your involvement.

Consumers have the ability to interact across platforms and channels (social media, mobile, IM, email, etc) and this has far reaching implications on how agencies need to restructure to assist clients in producing content, distributing marketing experiences, and measuring the return of our collective marketing efforts. The silos are breaking down. “Integration” and being “consumer centric” can no longer be buzzwords, these phrases must be mantras. Agencies must do what it takes to manifest these mantras across all staff and processes. You may need to take a step backwards to take two steps forward, by investing in training and education, and investing in staff or acquisition. The margins and strategic value to clients are worth the investment. Have you focused on the right investments over the last 3 years? Will your business fail without the proper investment and effort? Not yet, but eventually natural selection kicks in.

Square Peg Round Hole

“We want to do something in MySpace”, “What about Facebook?”, “We need to do a viral campaign”, “What the hell is Twitter anyway?”. These questions are asked by marketers, and answers pondered by agencies industry wide daily. Thankfully “Our CEO asked if we should experiement in Second Life” has waned over the last year (just over a year ago this question rolled off the tongue of pretty much every client I worked with).

I only get frustrated with these questions because they are asked without respective objectives associated with them. Can you blame me for wanting to do things the right way?

In the spirit of never wanting to be left behind or out-marketed, and the desire to harness the next big thing to sustain or grow their businesses, marketers are somewhat susceptible to industry peer pressure (Wikipedia defines peer pressure as: “the pressure exerted by a peer group in encouraging a person to change their attitude, behavior and/or morals, to conform to, for example, the group’s actions.”). Social media growth is one of the biggest media trends in digital media history. Marketers and agencies want to simply “fish where the fish are”. But the problem is that consumers aren’t fish, and social media is far from a simple habitat. Tapping into this exciting media shift is not as simple as moving to a new fishing spot and bringing along the right bait, but rather living in the ocean and becoming a fish yourself. Social media marketing is a commitment to participation, immersion, transparency, engagement, and authenticity.

I’ve read too many fluffy case studies where what is not included (ie: results in the context of specific objectives and investments) tells a more interesting story than the hyped up story that is publicly released. In fact, many examples of social media marketing generate far more exposure via PR than the actual intended consumer based social media engagement. There are many examples of forced social marketing – “presence” versus “participation” if you will. Social media approaches that accomplish nothing but PR are not long term strategies with sustainable futures. Of course there are also instances where the marketer did nothing wrong. Just like any marketing approach, you win some and you lose some. The major difference is that when you fail within a social media environment , you may be failing in clear sight of your most valuable consumers and brand advocates. So how you fail is actually the differentiation between a tree falling in the woods with nobody around to hear it and a televised building implosion. Additionally, success is all relative. The scale of success is sometimes tied to your brand, product or category and whether it is in sync with the innate attributes that drive engagement (ie: Health insurance or legal services are never going to be as engaging as fashion or entertainment), and how much effort you invest in becoming part of the active ecosystem. Over time we’ll find that financial and sweat investment levels in social media marketing will reflect consumer engagement variances, not the other way around.

Some Questions to Ask When Shaping Your Social Media Strategy

Start with “Why?” – What are your specific objectives? Engaging and developing brand advocates? Establishing or expanding your consumer feedback loop? Creating additional media reach? Dissemination of marketing activation like coupons, incentives? (Answers: Yes, yes, maybe, maybe)

Next think about the methods of engagement … Does the combination of your existing brand personality and assets lend themselves to engaging consumers, or do you need to create new assets and a brand personality extension to accomplish your objectives? If you have a brand personality and have or can easily create assets that will help engage consumers, deepen relationships with and develop new brand advocates, your investment to return ratio will be higher. However, if you have to reinvent your brand persona, invest extensively in asset creation, and over-think your participatory appropriateness for this environment, then you are beginning to force a square marketing peg in a round social media hole.

In either case, remember that you must commit to participation – this has become the “5th P of marketing” in the new media era. Whether you manage this process in house or have an agency manage the efforts, be committed to commitment itself, develop clear objectives, dissect your approach and be transparent and authentic.

I know, you want to fish where the fish are. But please – stop focusing on the sonar screen and your bait. Just jump into the ocean and become a fish.