“Can Social Marketing Be Monetized Without Screwing Up the Consumer Experience?”


At the AAAAs Media Conference in New Orleans Friday the panel session featured Josh Bernoff, VP/principal analyst, Forrester Research; Joe Abruzzo, EVP/director of research, MPG North America; Pete Blackshaw, EVP/digital strategic services, Nielsen Online; Heidi Browning, SVP/insight and planning, MySpace; Sarah Fay, CEO, Aegis Media North America; Joe Marchese, president, SocialVibe and Zaw Thet, co-founder and CEO, 4INFO. Bernoff kicked off the panel with some interesting statistics that talked about how people don’t appreciate advertising, but they are willing to engage with friends.

RBR/TVBR spoke with Sarah Fay about the session and gleaned a lot of advice for marketers and broadcasters. She told us the panel debated the business model of social media sites: “The debate about whether or not marketers can actually have a place in the world of social media and be able to have effective programs. But the resounding tenet of what everyone had to contribute was that, yes, there is value to social marketing, but you have to get the dynamics of the program right.”

The criticism that marketers received is that straight advertising doesn’t really seem to cut it and seems out of place. “And that’s probably right,” Fay tells us. “I think it can still work, and the consumer will tell you whether it does or doesn’t because it will either perform or it won’t. People can easily tune it out or they may not see the value because they’re engaged in a very different way. However, if you use the platform to build community and then use your medium to drive toward interactions in that community, then you can actually build and cultivate something that’s very powerful.”

Another theme that came through from all of the panelists was that it’s not a short-term plan. “If you are going to start with community marketing,” says Fay, “You can’t pull out of it easily. So you have to be prepared to stay with your community. Obama was a good example of a great community marketer. If you followed his campaign, he was Twittering and messaging in all of the various social platforms—Facebook, etc. People were able to engage with him and hear from him and other people in the campaign on a regular basis. Now that the campaign is over, will he stop communicating? If he does, it leaves a lot of people hanging and it’s a completely missed opportunity to stay in touch with his community.”

Brands can do the same kind of thing. Aegis/Carat client Adidas, for example, has had numerous communities over the years and they’ve only continued to become more rich and robust. “Part of the secret of building that community is to constantly refresh those areas; listen to what people are saying; and to take that information and turn it into the types of things that they’re looking for. People who are part of that community are trained to come back—to the brand and to interact with each other. There is power in what the consumer can do for you.”

The panel also talked about some of the targeting tactics you can use around “social graphs,” or people’s extended social network, The concept is “birds of a feather will flock together.” People tend to have the same interests, but they also tend to use their influencing on each other on the offline world as well as the online world. People who know each other very well tend to gravitate toward the same brands. Said Fay: “There are technologies in the market that are allowing this type of targeting just like behavioral targeting. But the behavior is who you are friends with. And we’ve seen some amazing returns by taking customers and visitors of a website and then overlaying the friends’ targeting to a normal online media buy. You can actually generate a much higher response from something like that.”