p&g not sure about marketers in social media

November 18, 2008 ·

in today's AdAge, the general manager-interactive marketing at p&g, scott mcconnell, pontificated that brands don't belong in social media, pointing to the difficulty these sites have had in monetizing their spaces. a couple of his points i took objection to and thought that mcconnell was off on his basis.

the easiest way for me to assess this is to go through the article top to bottom.

what in heaven's name made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their girlfriend?...
... they were trying to talk to somebody. so it just seems a bit arrogant. ... we hijack their own conversations, their own thoughts and feelings, and try to monetize it.

the basic premise that this space is for consumers to have conversations (namely breaking up with their girlfriend - which is dubious to start with) and that brands don't have a place in that kind of environment is erroneous. consumers are having conversations about brands, branded content (ie. commercials), and how brands fit in their lives. granted, this probably doesn't happen as much as we'd like, but gentle pushes and good reasons to want to talk about our brands i don't see as problematic. yes, the main thing about facebook is for consumers to interact with each other (talking, sharing, etc), but it's certainly not exclusionary to brands.

to say that we hijack their conversations is completely unfounded. in no way do brands become associated with the personal dialogue of people on facebook. the only conversations our presence and our media become associated with are those of the community doing something with the brand itself and that is completely legitimate to want to capitalize on and promote. and the news-feed stories those propagate do not take over user conversations, just add new ones.

so the targeting is fantastic. you can do really amazing things. but i'm not so sure i want to be targeted like that. ... i don't think everything every consumer says to someone else and writes down is somehow monetizable by the media industry.

it is folly to say that he doesn't want to see highly targeted ads and thusly imply that other consumers don't want to as well. increasing ad relevance is a much better scenario for consumers and one that i think they'd actually appreciate. why do i want to see feminine hygiene products as it's completely irrelevant to me? i will ignore it and be left with a negative feeling about a brand or media channel.

however, if an ad appeared that met a certain specific needs, or was of high interest to me, consumers would pay attention, be more likely to respond and have a better feeling about the brand as it fulfilled something missing in my life. at the end of the day, there is consumer acceptance to seeing the ads there because they get that in order for the space to be a free service, it has to be ad supported. so if they have to see something, it might as well be appropriate.

as for our right as marketers to tap into consumer conversations and interests to target ads, i would bet that p&g puts money in search. that more or less taps into people's interests to target ads to them or in gmail tapping into keywords within to serve relevant ads. what's the difference there than in facebook or other social media spaces.

mcconell went on to say that marketers should not abandon the space entirely, and that there are potentially valuable vehicles for advertisers such as applications. this is a somewhat outdated viewpoint as facebook has severely curtailed their visibility. you have to have something really powerful to break through the wall Facebook has put them behind (literally and figuratively). it's a huge challenge that only very few brands could hope to accomplish.

they held promise when they were launched and facebook took the wrong approach and that ruined applications. facebook let anyone and everyone make their own applications and didn't vet any of them or put a pay model in place to launch them. this completely ruined the space as it was flooded with useless and invasive applications and they had to correct it. that correction was the redesign and it devalued them significantly. so to believe that applications are the promised land is a hard pill to swallow.

all in all, i find the article and his viewpoints showed a lack of understanding about the value of the social media space and how brands in fact DO belong there. it's a fine line and marketers have to approach cautiously. but it's rich and valuable territory if they can get it right.




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