Heralding the death of non-social media

I just read a great article (after which I named this post) in I Media Connection, written by Doug Schumacher. I Media Connection is a marketing community that posts all sorts of great marketing information. This article was as humorous for me as it was informative, as it talks about the fact that even if you make a conscientious effort NOT to participate in social media, it is ultimately inevitable that you already ARE—in so many ways!

As we continue to educate our clients and customers on how they can use social media to enhance their one-to-one communications with consumers and vice versa—fear and trepidation still tend to make them hesitant to take that brave step into the new marketing frontier. This article certainly illustrates the many ways that you are already in the social media world. And why it’s high time for those nervous Nellies to leap into the future—because it’s already here.

Doug ends his post with “so what’s a brand to do”? I ask of you that very question.

Enjoy his article.

Best Nicole

Right before the end of the year, there was a strong backlash against marketing through social media channels. If you were working anywhere near social media, it was hard to miss: People said it doesn’t work. People said it doesn’t work as they’d like it to. And people said it may work, but it takes effort (my favorite).

It was probably inevitable. There’s never been a more explosive media format than social media. As someone wrote on one of my newsfeeds, “Is there anyone out there who isn’t starting a social media company?” At any rate, backlash is practically street cred for the internet set. It’s right there in the arc of the internet’s growth.

Personally, I have no question as to whether social media is a proper marketing channel for a company, and that’s because of one simple reason: In the very near future, all media will be social media. Here’s why—and what it means for you.

Social media at point of purchase
Let’s pause for a second before heading off into the future. For many brands, you could probably argue that all marketing efforts have already gone social. How?

A high percentage of purchases are already preceded by online research. And where there is online research, there are search results. Those search engine results pages often bring up links to a number of consumer review sites. Now, if you’ve done any amount of conversation monitoring, you know that reviewers don’t exactly pull their punches. Even with shopping sites like Amazon, consumers posting negative reviews are hitting the brand where it hurts most—at the point of purchase.

So given the above scenarios, even in a “controlled” push-media world, many brands can’t even make it through the far end of the buying decision funnel without running head first into a social media situation. Compounding matters, many consumer comments are on social sites like Yelp, where they quickly rise to the top of search rankings.

This point-of-purchase invasion is heading for the physical shopping world as well. Have you tried any of the bar code scanner tools for mobile phones? I haven’t found one that works well. Today. But with several of these technologies already in consumers’ hands, how long until that’s as seamless a part of the buying process as reading an Amazon review before purchasing online? Shoppers will be able to scan an item themselves and get all sorts of product information—right in the store.

The rise of social viewing
So where’s a company to hide from social media? On TV? Whether IPTV or internet TV is the TV model of the future, TV viewing is going to be highly social. I’d say the best glimpse of that future right now is internet TV.

Last November, I watched my high school football team play in the state championship—on my laptop while waiting for a flight at O’Hare airport. Next to the video stream was a live chat box, open to anyone viewing the game. No sign-up, no identity verification—just post off the top of your mind (and many did). Welcome to social viewing.

What I found particularly interesting is that during the few lulls in the game (they set the record for most points scored in a state final), the chat conversation topics would drift outside the game video to address the surrounding content on the page—including the ads. And it certainly wasn’t all positive.

Social viewing technology is also currently available in the “Watch & Chat” section of CBS.com, on View2gether.com, and in beta at NBC.com. It’s similar to the gaming experience on Xbox Live, except that platform focuses primarily on voice instead of text.

If you project social viewing onto a national broadcast-like environment, you can imagine how vulnerable brands will be to public floggings. Social viewing carries with it all the things you were afraid of on the social networks, now fueled by anonymity combined with the reach of broadcast TV. With search engines aiding and abetting these conversations, even comments on small broadcasts could be discovered and shot into the mainstream conversation rapidly.

Commenting capabilities—everywhere
In addition to TV, the future of display advertising offers little sign of protection from social media. Have you seen the display ads on Facebook? With commenting capabilities underneath? I recently commented on one, and it went straight into my newsfeed—broadcast to all my “friends.” (Facebook didn’t even flag me that this would happen.)

You should expect comments across all online media to be more visible in the future. Disqus is already connecting comments across 45,000 websites, archiving them, making them more searchable, and tying them to database technologies like Plaxo.

Surely someone will invent something to stop all that, right? Here’s what that would require: Less data made public for everyone to see. Less inclination among people to expose deeper and deeper levels of their lives in public. And fewer and fewer brands willing to venture into new media.

But since the public onset of the web, trends in this respect have been quite the opposite—overwhelmingly so. So, in order to avoid that kind of social environment, brands would have to be practically invisible to anyone using online media—and that’s not exactly the objective of marketing departments.

So what’s a brand to do?

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