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I'm interested in tips for branders/advertisers/marketers on how social media is different from traditional media. Are there any tactics we should use specifically for social media vs. traditional media? How do brands become memorable through social media? What makes a brand successful on social media?
Dear Media Minded,
Here is advice from eight social media experts from the ProfNet Connect network:
"Digital and social media have changed how consumers think about brands and advertising," says William J. Ward, social media professor at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. "Previously, brands used advertising to entertain or inform the consumers in a one-way effort to persuade. Today, brands use social media with advertising to create two-way engagement and interaction for positive word of mouth and functionality."
For example, social media allows consumers to have access to the ratings and reviews of fellow shoppers, says Melih Oztalay, CEO of SmartFinds Internet Marketing. A study by the e-tailing group and PowerReviews (found on MarketCharts.com) in September showed 6 out of 10 consumers base shopping decisions on the ratings and reviews of others, through social media sites and user-generated content.
So consumers are the brand, says Drew Stevens, president of Stevens Consulting Group. "Social media helps diminish the noise and allows brands to proliferate so that current clients becoming marketing avatars."
"Consumers are empowered," says Lorrie Thomas, CEO of Web Marketing Therapy. "The elitism of marketing is gone, thanks to social media." Instead of B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer), we are in era of P2P (people to people), she says.
When an individual shares their life on Facebook, and talks about what products they like and how they use them, it's far more powerful than someone running a standard TV ad touting products, says Billie Blair, president of Change Strategists Inc. These changes have been dramatic for advertisers, because now so much depends on good reports from customers.
"Our ability to remember brands has, indeed, been enhanced by social media -- but then again, many other types of advertising do the same thing, like prominent, impressive billboards along freeways and in large cities, or advertisements during the SuperBowl," says Blair. "It's just that social media is far more pervasive, and thus offers more opportunity."
Jennifer Izzo, senior account executive at Costa DeVault, agrees that traditional media is still relevant. As long as traditional and nontraditional media play off of each other, they'll both be important, she says. For example, it used to be difficult to share a TV commercial with a friend, but nowadays, you can find it on YouTube and email it to them in seconds. "When done right, advertisers have an opportunity to get more bang for their buck, by making traditional advertisements social media-friendly," she says.
Individual Attention From Brands
"What consumers today desire is the customer experience, and the closer they are with vendors, the more apt they are to repeat purchases and directly affect referrals," says Stevens.
Social media allows consumers to receive individual attention from a brand, says Oztalay.
"Pre-social media, consumers shared complaints by dialing a 1-800 number to speak to a brand representative (and often times, hardly expected a returned call), or they left a note in a suggestion box at a restaurant, or they simply called a friend to vent about bad service. All of these actions were very one-sided and consumers didn't necessarily expect anything in return," says Izzo. "Today, an angry diner can pull out their cellphone and start sending negative tweets faster than you can say, 'Can I please speak with your manager?'"
The biggest change from social media is the ease with which ordinary people can make their opinions known, says Shel Horowitz, author of several award-winning books on marketing, including the recent Amazon best-seller "Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet."
"Customers who encounter less-than-satisfactory customer service can now trash a brand to the world," he says.
Horowitz provides the example of the YouTube video "United Breaks Guitars," which is a song written by a musician about his guitar being broken while in the airline's custody. Some of the lyrics include, "I should have flown with someone else, or gone by car, 'cause United breaks guitars." The video has currently been viewed more than 11 million times, and according to The New York Times, United Airline's stock price fell 10 percent within four days of the video being posted (costing stockholders about $180 million).
"By failing to head off this disaster with proper handling of the customer, United Airlines created a PR disaster for itself," says Horowitz.
On the other hand, Comcast dug itself out of a hole by creating the "remarkably responsive" Twitter account @ComcastCares after a YouTube video was posted about a Comcast technician falling asleep on a customer's couch, says Horowitz.
"The most memorable brands and advertising campaigns today are the ones that are best at encouraging and rewarding user generated content and facilitating social interaction between fans," says Ward. "The best brand advertising today is also helping to solve consumer problems."
Dynamic Capabilities of a Brand
Social media advertising is not based on direct and monotonous advertising, but rather the interaction and continuous modification of campaigns, says Oztalay. Successful social media ads have variety and novelty.
For example, Skittles has more than 19 million "likes" on Facebook, says Anna Daugherty, "The Bugler" at Motion Marketing & Media. Everyone knows their outlandish commercials and weird "Taste the Rainbow" campaign, but they take it one step further on social media, often posting outrageous things that frequently don't relate to their product at all, she says. For example, one status was "It's not fantasy football unless your quarterback has a magic sword." They get a lot of interaction because of these posts.
Consumers now expect this kind of content from Skittles, says Daugherty. "Skittles' traditional media advertising is so memorable, that they really don't need social media to sell their products," she says. Instead, they use social media to inject a little fun into their campaign.
Izzo recommends finding a brand niche, just like with traditional media. The niche doesn't have to be a product or service, it could be something the brand is known for, she says.
For instance, the clothing store @DKNY tweets along with the TV show "Gossip Girl," each Monday, says Izzo. The brand's clothes aren't necessarily on the show regularly, but @DKNY has made the weekly conversation a tradition. "Loyal DKNY consumers and regular 'Gossip Girl' fanatics aren't synonymous -- but that's the genius part," says Izzo. "Instead of just focusing efforts solely on the brand's target demographic, this approach opens them up to a larger pool of potential buyers."
"Brands become memorable through social media by sharing valuable content, being authentic with values and having a human voice on the Web," says Thomas. "Audiences love authenticity from brands."
Possible Disadvantages of Social Media Branding
With all forms of traditional advertising, there is somewhat of a science behind picking the demographic that will ultimately see it, says Izzo. For example, if you're booking a commercial during Monday Night Football, you can have a pretty good guess who will see it. "But with social media, there's less of a guarantee, so brands need to pay more attention to all different segments."
Direct marketing is not as effective with social media, agrees Oztalay. Social media allows the message of your brand to be carried over multiple sources, and allows those messages to be received by your connections, links and friends or family -- so the reach of your brand can't be measured as immediately or clearly compared to advertising in traditional media.
"Human response is more effective when information is repeated," Oztalay continues. In the case of social media, repetition occurs from the voluminous sharing of brand information in social communities between friends and connections, which is otherwise known as "creating buzz," he says. Therefore, social media tends to be more labor intensive, as it gets us closer to the one-to-one relationship, rather than traditional media, which is a one-to-many process.
Ward agrees: "Brand advertising today requires continuous monitoring and measuring of consumer social engagement, while simultaneously and seamlessly integrating across multiple social, mobile and digital platforms."
What's Still Relevant?
"If there is anything we learned from YouTube, it is that humans are still visual," says Oztalay. And if we go back to 1996, only when Windows 95 and Netscape made the Internet visual did consumers start engaging in the Internet directly, and away from private networks like AOL, Compuserve and Prodigy, he says.
So visuals like videos, photos and other creative designs are as relevant in social media as they are in traditional media, he says.