Advertising on a social site is NOT social marketing

My business partner and CEO of BlogFrog, Rustin Banks, recently spoke at AdTech, one of the advertising industry’s largest conferences. His presentation was part of a track led by Chris Brogan on the Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media Advertising.  The audience was packed with brands and agencies trying to get a handle on this rapidly-evolving space. Rustin rocked it, not only because he’s smart and engaging but also because his message is compelling and too risky to ignore. Advertising on a social network is not social advertising.  You can watch the entire presentation here.

For the most part, brands have gotten over the whole debate on whether or not social media marketing is important.  They know they need to be engaged in social solutions and stay connected with customers online or competitors will gladly do it for them. The challenge is how to do it. The biggest mistake advertisers make is thinking that throwing up banner advertising on a social site is social media marketing. They think the answer is as simple as just being VISIBLE while people are engaged with each other on social media sites.

But let’s look at what that model requires. If I’m on Facebook or YouTube, in order for your ad to be effective, you have to distract me from doing what I came there to do.  You have to be more interesting, add more value, or be more entertaining than the content and people I came there to engage with.  So that whole model relies on interruption and distraction.  The place you really want to be is in the content people came there to see. Rustin’s test for brands is simple:

Is your content in the narrow column (distraction) or in the widest column (content) of the page?

Instead of distracting users from their mission, brands need to contribute to the content people came to engage with. The success of this model relies on community-building and content, which is much harder for brands because they typically suck at creating content and have a hard time being human enough to be engaging. I just got back from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association Summit (WOMMA) in Vegas and saw evidence of this same conclusion:

The answer lies in partnering with influencers.  Brands need to position themselves higher up on the “consumer influence food chain” and be part of the conversation people are having online long before they ever see an ad. Before they are influenced by discounts or offers, consumers are influenced by values and life.  They’re on blogs and online communities talking about the economy, relationships, fitness, politics, and how to get their kids to eat vegetables. The #1 place people go (especially women) for information and recommendations is like-minded blogs and communities.  And these communities are led by online influencers.

Helping brands partner with these influencers and be a genuine part of their content is what BlogFrog does for companies and agencies trying to do more than just advertise and distract on social networks.  It’s called Conversational Marketing and I’m proud that our clients include household brands like Kenmore, Shutterfly, Redbox, ABC News, Kraft, P&G, Coca-Cola, and dozens more.

If you’re still wondering what the difference between advertising and conversational marketing is, check out Which Brand Would You Rather Be?

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