the rather lovely above video - by jabi - neatly sums up the collective dilemma of how brands, marketers and, specifically, agencies address the challenge of social media. the issue was the topic of discussion last night at the IPA 44 Club's inaugural event of 2009: The future of advertising in a networked society. quite the session it was... here's the gist:
part one - report findings
- social media = the online tools and platforms people use to share information, thoughts, opinions, content etc
- problems is that brands are "crashing the party rather than hosting it" (Russell Davies)
- many brands are experimenting but not getting traction in the area
- we need a model of comms that reflects 'ME' as opposed to 'brand'
- a model that's about conversation and participation rather than interruption and engagement
- a model that incorporates David Armano's thinking about 'influence ripples'
- Johnny X by Dare is a cracking example
- which succeeded in concentrating the feeds into and out of it's online space (64% of upstream and 84% of downstream feeds came from 10 sites each)
- planning social media should focus on targeting the few, that demonstrate: (1) expansiveness (propensity to chatter), (2) popularity (propensity to filter and target) and (3) reciprocity (likelihood to act)
- network size is predictable, as is network flow, as is circulation
part two - agency survey
- brands in a socially-networked world are more responsible for creating and disseminating the right information - brands should be more discretionary in what they produce [Mediation found this less than substantiated and at odds with Clay Shirky's comments at the MGEITF this year on filtering in a content-abundant world being after the fact, ie produce then allow the network to filter]
- the way to reward brand advocates is not through financial incentive
- the industry disagrees on two areas: (1) that advertising principles are the same in a networked society and (2) that social media behaves in a fundamentally new way
- it is believed that most revenue is up for grabs in content creation, then data & insight, then market research & insight gathering (amongst others)
- these new revenue streams represent £11bn of additional revenue opportunity, with another £5bn potentially
- ...which would be (exactly!) enough to meet the £16bn shortfall in industry revenues by 2016 predicted by the IPA's Future of Advertising and Agencies report of two years ago (£16bn = the difference between the IPA's 'Central' and 'Consumer' Scenarios)
part three - the discussion
I won't bullet this because it's getting late and you had to be there, but this was the better part of the evening with discussion ranging between philosophy of brands in a social media space to the (inevitable) measurement and accountability of such activity.
for me a kind of rose-tinted consensus was reached; consensus that went along the lines of:
- marketing has always been about great social networking, the challenge is the same - getting the right content in the right place, its just that...
- (1) people power is more potent (we have 500 networked connections not 50 disparate ones) and (2) we need to react to the context our message are in rather than control the context our messages are in
- it's brilliant because we can react to real people in real time in the context of a real conversations
- social media isn't a bolt on, it has to be woven into every brand touchpoint
- brands need to behave differently, and understand that their relationship with consumers is - to consumers - much less important than consumers' relationships with other consumers
so in a nutshell social media is great because it's as old as the hills, better than the disruption model, measurable ...and there's a freak-off big commercial opportunity for the brands and agencies that get it right.
I just don't think that it' that easy. our industry is woefully unprepared for the future. there's some brilliant thinking and debate going on, but the commercial models, joined-up industry measurement systems, and marketing best practice principles - from a 'what works' as opposed to a 'self-regulatory' point of view - just aren't moving fast enough.
most importantly, not enough consideration was given to the integration of broadcast and social media. they're not going to exist in isolation and broadcast media is going nowhere. iTunes didn't kill CDs and Amazon didn't kill Waterstones. social media certainly won't kill mainstream broadcast media; the same mainstream broadcast media that in the vast majority of instances provides social media users with the content they comment on, pass on, or reappropriate for their own ends.
the other interesting question is how the behaviour of digital natives will evolve... we're familiar with the media 'hubs' that are the current crop of adolescent's bedrooms; they're multi-tasking away across ten devices and infinite bits of content. but what happens when they grow-up? how much of their social media behaviour will they take with them into adulthood and how much will they replace with the aggregated broadcast consumption of their parents?
we live in interesting times; and I guess we wouldn't have it any other way.
one last word, I urge you to read JVW's post about the event and specifically his debate on how the IPA can use social media to get their social media report into more people's hands whilst not impacting on revenues. a pleasure and a joy.