I was recently interviewed by Innovate 1st for an upcoming edition of Innovate eZine’s “Conversations on the Cutting Edge” series. Following are excerpts from the interview, which was conducted by Doug Berger, Managing Director, The INNOVATE Company.
To read the full interview series, start with my earlier blog post: “Challenges in Advertising & Media Effectiveness.”
Social Media Myths & Truths
Doug: Let’s shift gears to social and digital media. Why don’t you start with some basic facts and then move into some of the wide-spread fallacies.
Randall: Globally, in 2007, there were about 210 million people using social media. Today, it’s over 500 million people. The time per person spent between 2007 and 2009 has gone up about 82 percent.
So more people are doing it, and they’re doing it a lot more. Secondly, it is big everywhere. When you look around the world at the percentage of people using social media, globally it’s 73 percent as of last year, from a low of 59 percent in Germany up to a high of 84 percent in Brazil, with the U.S. at the global average of 73 percent.
It started skewing a bit younger, but as the penetration of social media has grown, it’s become almost a truly representational population.
Doug: What are the trends around social media in terms of brand building?
Randall: We all know that a recommendation from a friend, or a family member, or an acquaintance is the most powerful form of marketing there is. That is the underlying phenomena of social media. Engaging people to ultimately have them speak positively on your behalf is the real opportunity of social media.
Let me just give you one example of this. Nielsen (Disclosure: I work at Nielsen) has a partnership with Facebook, where they measure ad effectiveness on Facebook. They have looked at a basic ad for Virgin Atlantic and we can see the recall for the ad. Facebook can serve up that same exact Virgin ad, except below its ad it says, “The following friends or people in your network are also fans of Virgin.” These ads score much higher than just the regular ad without the social context.
One of the developments that advertisers need to be focused on are ways to leverage social context that validates having people seriously think about using or buying your brand.
A lot of our clients are moving to a media model that we like to call POEM – Paid, Owned, Earned Media. Paid media is the traditional advertising. Owned media is your own website, or you own your own content on a website. Earned media is how consumers are talking about your brand.
This POEM framework is an interesting one to think about for reaching consumers. Now advertisers can look at people who viewed an ad; the percentage who went online and searched for my brand; the percentage who went onto my Facebook page; the percentage who went to my corporate website. You can measure all of that. You can start to understand the interaction of paid and earned media in a way that hasn’t been possible before.
Doug: In the world of social media, there are myths that companies are acting on, but based on your statistics don’t have validity. What are turning out to be some of the places where social media is not delivering marketing effectiveness?
Randall: Social media is part of earned media messaging that’s carried out voluntarily by consumers on behalf of the brand. That voluntary messaging can be positive or negative.
The biggest myth is in viral marketing. There is a belief that you can do a viral video and achieve much of what you would achieve, for example, with TV advertising at a fraction of the cost.
The reality is, first of all, that there are a rare few videos that ever go viral enough and get enough voluntary messaging by consumers to come anywhere close to the reach you can achieve on TV. It really has to be earned through consumers giving you great ratings because your brand really worked; the product or service is a great one.
I remember a time when my wife and I went on vacation. We came back to the Philadelphia Airport and her Lexus wouldn’t start. I called customer service and I expected that they would send a tow truck. Instead, they walked me through a five-step process to get the car started and it all worked out.
That’s a fantastic example of where I could then go online and talk about my great experience with Lexus. That is what advertisers need to be focused on … how do you drive voluntary positive messaging by consumers on behalf of your brand?
People have gotten hung up on going after something really cool and creative and different and having it go viral, as opposed to focusing on the real activities that build advocacy for your brand.
Doug: What else have you found people to be really interested in?
Randall: Let me come back to cross platform measurement. You know that the cross platform exposure is driving much greater effectiveness among the people who see your ad in more places, and yet the media planning hasn’t caught up.
The media plans are still constructed in a way that drive more reach across each media instead of driving more overlap. This area is going to get more attention.
Next: Marketing in the B2B space