How Social Nets Solve The Earned, Paid Media Conundrum
Social has become the dominant channel for what was previously known as word-of-mouth marketing, giving marketers the chance to cultivate relationships and earn exposure far beyond they media they pay for.
Advertisers can buy media on social platforms, of course, but successful practitioners of earned media have taught us that impersonal paid, one-to-many advertising messages are less effective than authentic, user-generated one-to-one communication.
Marketers need to allow consumers to engage their personal associations and spread the messaging on their own terms. The real power of paid media may actually lie in how brands use it to fuel the earned media social fire. More than serving impressions, brands must cultivate advocates. The future of social marketing is dependent on bridging between one-to-many media and one-to-one messaging. Fortunately, social networks are already building solutions to tackle this problem.
Facebook is the frontrunner, thanks to its native Applications functionality. Apps allow marketers to open long-term, high trust relationships directly with users; relationships that represent far more overall value than any single-serve ad.
Facebook Apps are nothing new. Brands like Starbucks use them to communicate with fans, while services like Spotify have Apps that let users share what they’re listening to. But Apps haven’t to date been used effectively as advertising tools that combine paid and earned media.
Hypothetically, a brand like Coke could run a Facebook campaign serving ads in the news feed. The ad’s call-to-action says, “Bring your friends happiness.” Users that click on the ad would be taken to a page to accept the terms of using Coke’s application. Once the user opts-in, granting the Coke App permission to access select facets of their social activity, Coca-Cola’s messaging would show up in the user’s friends’ feeds endorsed by the original user — something like, “John Smith is bringing his friends happiness with Coca Cola.”
The communication is crafted by the brand but transmitted by the user as if it were theirs. The consumer becomes an advocate and an evangelist, connecting one-to-one with their friends but that action was triggered by a paid, one-to-many ad.
Marketers need more tools that combine paid and earned media. The key is likely simple and overt opt-in mechanisms that grant brands permission and access while facilitating easy sharing for users. Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter can all capitalize on this functionality for marketers, depending on how those networks develop their ad products.
My friend, Seth Godin, was right; permission matters. As true as it was when he wrote about it in his book, "Permission Marketing." When a user grants a brand permission, it obligates the brand to return something of value. The new twist is that it should be something worth sharing socially. Users reward the brand by publicly committing to the brand-user relationship, agreeing to pay attention to the brand in the future and signaling their intention to share messaging as a brand advocate.
Rather than push consumers to a branded page, or off of the network, marketers need units that allow users to interact with each other and share their love of a brand. They then need to apply creative elements that encourage further interaction from the users.
The end goal is to bring direct marketing to social media, with the user-generated connections facilitating the equivalent of high-open rate mailings with magazine-like pass along. Brands that strike the right balance can push interactive posts to existing fans while driving new relationships with paid ads.
Rather than earn “likes” or “shares,” brands can buy ad placements that create brand advocates, then watch as those advocates deliver earned media opportunities. Marketers need more of these kinds of tools to move seamlessly from the one-to-many paid ad campaign to one-to-one social advocacy initiatives that bring their messaging to new audiences in the hands of their most trusted friends. The ROI potential is clearly beyond that of the ordinary advertising.