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A few weeks ago, I started working with a new client, a mid-size business. They started using Social Media a few years back and, over time, developed presences on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ YouTube, LinkedIn, Foursquare, a blog, Facebook Places, Tumblr and just started on Pinterest. Their previous Social Media consultant operated on the premise: Businesses need to be on as many social media channels as they can.

Why? In this rapidly changing world, businesses never know where their customer is going to be, so a business needs to be everywhere.

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Mr. Consultant, stand in the corner and write “I will never recommend something that insane again.” 10,000 times.

There are two reasons why consultants, experts or agencies would give obnoxious advice:

– They try to fleece customers.

– They don’t know what they are doing.

I won’t even bother with people that try to fleece brands. Ultimately, brands will see through it and end the scam prematurely.

I’m much more concerned with people that believe in the philosophy that brands should be everywhere. Should Axe advertise on each TV Channel, even the Hallmark Channel? Should PETA run an ad in the Hunter’s Journal? Should Obama advertise on the Rush Limbaugh show?

Social Media shows its immaturity when “being everywhere” is still an advice I hear every day. Just like traditional and digital media, social media needs to rely on research – for example a social media audit. Understanding demographics, psychographics, spend decisions, social network use, day/time parting – all the good stuff and more that helps you understand where you need to be, when you need to be there, and what you should be doing/saying while you’re around. This helps brands and their community not to waste anyone’s time, helps to achieve goals and measure results.

Don’t be everywhere. Just be where your research tells you to be.

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Yahoo!, the last traditional media company, is in deep trouble. Just like AOL, MSN and Forbes.com – dinosaurs founded in a time where media agencies had to manage scarcity. The Yahoo! Homepage used to be part of a digital media plan just like buying commercials during the NFL season for beer brands. Two things changed: ad networks, DSP’s and ad exchanges changed the focus of media agencies from placement buying to audience buying. And, more importantly, people are less interested in reading professional content and pay more attention to content created by their friends.

What is Yahoo’s response to a changed marketplace and customer behavior?

More content, more video, more, more, more. I wonder if Albert Einstein’s “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” has become Yahoo’s mission statement. More is not the answer. Traditional media companies will never be able to compete with the amount of content created on Social Networks, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube, Facebook, Google+, Blogs, sites, Tumblr, etc. I’m not predicting the death of Yahoo!, nothing ever dies. VCR’s are still flashing “12:00” in millions of households, papers are being delivered to millions of door steps each morning and millions of faxes are being delivered each week. It took decades after the telegraph

was invented until the last telegraph was sent. (January 27, 2006, to be exact.) Yahoo! will be around for a long time to come. More irrelevant and less valuable by the day.

The demise of Yahoo! points to an important development

Online advertising is in the middle of a radical evolution but the majority of agencies/brands are acting as if it was still 2005. During that period, the majority of digital marketers were complaining about silos and the fact that they were cut off from the traditional campaign. Digital advertising had no place at the table and was not more than an afterthought: “Make sure the banner ad looks like the commercial.”

The disconnect is now between display advertising and social media

I see more integration between TV/Print campaigns and Social Media compared to Display Advertising and Social Media. The challenge is that Display Advertising continues to be deeply anchored in the world of Direct Marketing, creating a massive disconnect between that display advertising and Social Media. When your goal is to convert prospects into leads, a Social Media integration seems nothing than a silly distraction. Or, is it?

We’re reliving 2005 in the display advertising space: SEM/SEO is always at the table, Social Media the hot new toy and display advertising was relegated to the basement and algorithms.

What is the remaining value of media buying agencies?

The agency role in this new ecosystem will be re-evaluated by brands. The main challenge for media buying agencies will be their unique value proposition. It used to be access, buying power and custom tools. That competitive advantage is slowly disappearing because content created outside of traditional media properties gains importance and relevance over time.

The secondary challenge is the lack of trusted measurements. Ask 100,000 marketers about trusted and reliable measurements and you will get 150,000 answers. Is it impressions, clicks, conversions, engagement, connections – what the hell is it? It’s a lack of industry leadership but also a lack of confidence by agencies based on the fickle brands. “Oh, you focus on conversions? Sure, we can do that.”

Sorry, I don’t know the answer. I just have a lot of questions.

The marketing landscape continues to evolve rapidly. We’re still trying to answer the questions of 2005, while our clients expect us to answer the questions of 2012. As a industry, we need to find better ways to measure, to attribute and to communicate our value proposition to clients.

The conference season is upon us. I hope we can spend less time talking about case studies and acting as if we knew the answers. Instead, let’s ask more questions.