Old Online Advertising Models Are Giving Way To New Social Media Ones

I was reading Brandweek and there was a brief article on a survey completed by IDC, IDC: Social Networking Traffic Up as Ads Fall Flat. The survey states that almost 60% of the US population, not 60% of Internet Users but the entire population, are active on social networking sites. However, only 57% of these social networking users are clicking on ads as opposed to 79% who click on ads on various Web 1.0 sites. This makes total sense to us folks who speak to companies on a daily basis and have worked with some of the earlier adopters in this segment such as McDonalds, Marriott International and Kodak. Communities and social media are all about one to one interaction, whether with a company or another user. You can't plaster an ad in midst of these conversations and think you will get a response.

I compare this to my days in the tradeshow/conference industry where social interaction is paramount. I would advise my clients to place a banner hanging on the wall of the event to invoke a brand Awareness to attendees, not for a call to action. Its the same with a banner ad on a social networking site. If you want to brand yourself to the community, then definitely place an ad. However if you expect to interupt the conversation and have someone take action on your ad; you are going to be sorely dissappointed. 

Now back to my events career, if my client wanted to create dialogue, create a call to action and reach a certain set of targeted attendees, I would advise them to be an exclusive sponsor of a cocktail reception or conference seminar. These events were segmented towards a certain targeted customer base, where the client can have interaction with the attendees in a more relaxed manner. At least in the events industry, this type of marketing garnered much better results.

I spoke to a major B-to-C media company that's been approached by their advertisers/marketing partners who are major consumer brands. Frustrated with lack of ROI on  social networking sites through ads and other digital marketing, they've decided to change strategy. These folks are well ahead of the curve as they have come up with an ingenious way to reach social networking users: join the conversation. 

For example, let's say you have a community of movie enthusiasts. What these consumer brands will do is create their own groups or Neighborhoods associated with this community. So advertisers who sell HD TVs, DVD players, popcorn, couches, etc. anything related to enhancing the movie watching experience can have their own Neighborhoods. They will offer coupons, discounts and develop discussions around their expertise that will engage the movie buff. In return, these advertisers will pay a fee to the enthusiast community owner for this access.

I think the early adopters have realized that you have to tackle social media like you are tackling a social, live event. Whether its online or in person, your dealing with human interaction and you need to have that mentality when marketing to social networking users. 

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