Of advertising and social media

As I have mentioned at some point in my previous posts, I am currently researching my dissertation on the topic of the impact of social media on traditional advertising. Following the countless web links resulting a quick search on ‘advertising is dead’ and being told so by university teachers, I’ve set on a quest to see whether or not this is true. 

I’m now in the midst of my interviews with practitioners after reviewing what academics have said about it. And I must say that my findings so far have surprised me. ImageNow, in this map I’m moving from the Desert of Desolation to the Data Jungle so I’m still a long way from the end. But I want to share what I know so far. Sure, there are people who agree, there are some who completely disagree that traditional is dead and see social media as this huge hype and companies don’t know what they are getting themselves into. But what I have found is that the strengths and weaknesses of both complement each other making them a very well suited match in an integrated manner. So, if traditional advertising is very much one-way communication it has a great reach, frequency driving brand awareness and easing the creation of a brand image, whereas social media is interactive, two-way communication encouraging engagement from the customer and in this way creating relationships and, according to some, even loyalty. So while advertising is great for the first stages of attracting customers, social media can help in the following stages. 

Now, this might not come as any news to anyone, but I’ve been repeatedly told by practitioners I’ve interviewed is that brands haven’t quite grasped social media yet. Sure, some have and some are built entirely on it, but most of them still have difficulty because they try to treat it as another traditional medium. So, no brands, don’t tell us about your discounts on Twitter, we want to know you as a ‘person’. Since brands pump so much money into building a personality, one would think they try to act like a human as well. To make my point a bit clearer imagine a brand is a person at a very crowded party and all he (or she) does is talk about himself – ‘oh, I have so many muscles and so much money. I have 3 cars and a huge mansion and I’m smart, I’m expensive, I have many qualities, etc.’ Without ever asking about the other people there. Some might find this attractive, but the chances are slim. On the other hand, people talk about themselves but also about the weather, about the news, their views on politics, religion or their favourite music band. In the same way brands should talk about their products but also about any relevant topics. A great example of this is Pandora (the jewellery company, not the radio) which, in their monthly magazine, have articles on celebrities, on fashion shows, on outfits for special occasions or even on teaching their customers about different precious stones. All of this while seamlessly integrating their products. 

If you get a chance, have a look here. I truly love it and I like the fact that it’s monthly so it doesn’t shower me with content too often. 


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