Social Media is NOT Advertising
I was reading an article on Mashable the other day (What Social Media Ad Types Work Best?) where they went through seven kinds of online advertising:
- banner ads -- Plain old display ad on a web page
- newsletter subscription ads -- Display ad in a newsletter sent to you
- corporate profiles with fans and logos -- Primarily Facebook fan pages
- corporate profiles without fans or logos -- Less interactive Facebook fan page
- get widgets -- something you can download an post on your site
- give widgets and sponsored content -- something you can send to a friend
They basically discovered that relevance trumps all. That is, if you want to sell soup, put a basic banner ad on a cooking website.
It is true that if you let people interact, that is give your 'food fight' widget to a friend, thus putting your brand out there, you'll get more eyeballs seeing your soup brand. But you won't necessarily sell more soup, at least not directly.
What I came away with from this study is that social media is so much noise -- you can't control the noise, although you can inject your own noise into the cacophony of millions of updates and snapshots and illicit conversations.
Social media advertising isn't much different than driving a truck through the city with your company name on the side. It keeps your brand in front of people, reinforcing the campaign, but it has to be part of a broader campaign. Thousands of people might see your logo trundling by on the side of a truck, but if that's all you have, your logo disappears from their minds before they even realize they saw it.
Now, don't get me wrong -- social marketing is way more than advertising, which is all this study looked at. You can't buy good, social awareness. You have to institutionalize it, and you have to use every communication tool at your disposal to truly interact with people and reinforce why your company is better than the alternative.
And that has nothing to do with social media, but just good, old fashioned, business planning.