Dang. It looks like Social Media killed advertising. Again.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that Social Media is not just changing the way we do business. It is rocking the very foundations on which business operates. Forget paradigm shifts – this is akin to a biological evolution. Thanks to Social Media I would not be surprised if we all start growing gills.

Gawd. Once again a Social Media Guru (or are they ninjas…I forget…) is pontificating about how EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED!!

You can read this article here.  But, in summary the author exclaims that traditional advertising is dead. The cute days of Mad Men where companies bought advertising to tell people about their products is gone. Over. Kaput.

For example, he says: Speaking to an audience, and selling to them, is largely an exercise in having the wisdom to enter a conversation that’s already happening in the prospect’s mind. It’s using the language the audience is already using.

So, we no longer advertise – we read minds! Wow, this Social Media thing is better than I thought. Seriously? You mean consumers are already thinking about us and we just have to figure out what language they are using and start a conversation about these thoughts in that language. Cool. Oh, where do we start that conversation? Telepathically? Perhaps a solid radio commercial or a billboard might get their attention. Just a thought…

He goes on…

If you’re throwing brand advertising at the masses and hoping something will stick, you’re playing a game that’s already over. Consumers have taken their ball and gone home.

Yes, they’ve gone home and are watching television. Last time I checked that was about four hours a day! Oh, and if you are just throwing ad campaigns against the wall then you need a new ad agency or a better plan.

Not done yet…

The equation used to be: money x media = business. The new equation is: time x media = business. In other words, every company is a media company.

So, my plumber is now a media company? Cool. Wonder if he offers HBO. Oh, wait, I get it. This is about the fact that every company has a story to tell and we are supposed to develop those stories and present them to interested consumers who will start a conversation with us leading to better engagement and a long-lasting relationship. Silly me, I just need a damn plumber to unclog my drains. Frankly, the last thing I really want to do is engage in a relationship with him…

I really hate to burst anyone’s bubble here but if you have a product or service you want to get in the hands of consumers, you will actually have to spend some money at some point. Yes, word-of-mouth marketing is great and Social Media is word-of-mouth on steroids. But it doesn’t…just…happen. You need to do something to start that fire. you will actually – at some point – interrupt someone’s train of thought and present your message to them in a very obvious way. A tweet ain’t going to cut it.

But wait, there’s more…

What does this look like in the real world? Here are three steps to creating a “campaign” that will last:

  1. Build a minimum viable audience with useful, educational, and entertaining content.
  2. Listen carefully to their frustrations, fears, problems, and desires.
  3. Create or adapt products and services that better serve them.

This is a very simple strategy that can be very difficult to execute. But it’s absolutely worth it.

Where to begin? Build a minimum viable audience? How do I do that without MARKETING TO THEM? I can create all the useful, educational, entertaining content about plumbing I want but if no one sees it what does it matter?

Listen carefully…now that is actually great advice and one of the true benefits of being active in Social Media. This is especially true when it comes to reviews. Comments on Yelp, Foursquare, Google Places, etc. can have a powerful impact on the image of your business. These conversations happen whether or not you are paying attention so it is vitally important that you listen to the marketplace.

Create and adapt? Consumer feedback is very important. But, if you’re a plumber there is only so much creating and adapting you can do. Sure, you can improve your customer service, response time or create a “customer care” program. In the end – you’re still just offering plumbing services and you want to book as many jobs as you can.

Finally – a “simple strategy that is very difficult to execute.” Wait, I need to look up the definition of oxymoron…..yep, it fits.

There is nothing “simple” about this strategy. Creating “useful, educational & entertaining” content is damn hard. It takes creativity and ability. An understanding of what people who are looking for your product or service will find interesting. The author scoffs at both being creative and the creative process yet minimizes the necessity of creativity in order to execute his “simple” strategy. See definition above.

And finally…

If you had enough money, the good old days of brand advertising were truly good, like shooting fish in a barrel.

Dang, I wish I lived during the time of Mad Men. Apparently, all they had to do was sell something and people would flock like lemmings to the store to buy it. People believed what they were told and did what they were told. Now, this pesky Social Media thing has come along and caused us to think. Damn you Mark Zuckerberg!

Traditional advertising is not dead. Yes, there are more ways to reach a potential audience than ever before. However, in the end marketing is about creating awareness. There are many ways to do that – of which Social Media is just a small part.

Beware the bullshit. If you own a small or medium business or run a small non-profit you know how difficult it is to attract customers or donors. And, you balance the marketing aspects of this process with all the day-to-day stuff that keeps your doors open. Do not fall into the trap of believing that Social Media is a marketing panacea.

Social Media is here to stay. It is a great way to expand your marketing efforts. But, no amount of “useful, educational & entertaining” stories will replace old-fash- , uh, traditional marketing efforts.

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist


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About Steve Allan

I am a Social Media specialist uniquely focused on the management, messaging and marketing of social media platforms for non-profits and small businesses.
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2 Responses to Dang. It looks like Social Media killed advertising. Again.

  1. Pingback: The Importance of an Advertising Audience « Publish N Prosper

  2. Pingback: Simple Business Advertising Tips « Publish N Prosper

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