Jason says: I'll get right on it as soon as I figure out how to get free WiFi and batteries. What is guaranteed these days? I think it's safe to say only death, taxes -- and that your video won't go viral.
Of course, as apparent as this is to those of us sitting on the sales side, it doesn't stop clients from asking. Advertisers are not exactly asking in the literal sense. Rather, they are regularly and generously hinting that it would sure help things if we can promise some viral (free) impressions for their video content. Duh.
I am far from an expert when it comes to what the value of social media is when compared to professional media. (My status on Facebook is, "Since you won't let me close my account, please stop stalking me via e-mail.") Many smarter people have tried to figure out the equation for that scenario. I actually think it's a false question. We try to keep things simple and talk about the value of the impression you are making on the potential customer. If that happens to be on a web site adjacent to professional brand-name content, fine. If that professional adjacency lends more credibility to your advertising message, fantastic. And if that piece of content happens to draw a large number of visitors because it becomes inordinately popular and your ad goes along for the ride, then it's quite the lucky break.
From what I hear, there are a few companies that will promise advertisers they can guarantee "earned media" over the course of a campaign. I am, naturally, skeptical. I find that it's impossible, in any way, to force a person to view any content.
So for all you sellers who are being asked to guarantee something viral, you'll need to assure your clients that the best means of getting attention for their brands is to place them in the best possible position, where their audience is receptive to their message.
The client needs to gather as much knowledge as they can about who, what, when and where their message is best received. Then they need to make a bet. There should be enough of an investment to ensure a real chance that this opportunity will play out and prove worthwhile.
There is clearly a lack of conviction in our business these days. The "let's test this in a small manner" attitude has led to small successes, not big victories.
As the saying goes, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." Now, I'm off to try and figure out my neighbor's WiFi password in search of some "unearned media."
Amy says: Free media -- or added-value impressions, as we used to call them -- no longer exists. Sarbanes-Oxley regulation put a stop to that. Now we have social media which becomes the catch-all to extend any kind of campaign. Clients and agencies alike are asking, how can Facebook/YouTube/Twitter/NextBigThing make this campaign work harder, get more impressions, get consumers to start talking about our brand, etc. The paid, owned, earned media model is a holistic one. You can't just focus on the earned media and hope it works.
Also, do paid media properties or professional media companies even have the ability to generate viral interest from consumers? Media companies produce a product. That product is content and they make money when consumers view their content. It seems unlikely that media companies are going to be willing to try to divert eyeballs from their content to anyone else's content for free. And they are using social media themselves to try to do the same thing that advertisers are doing.
The best approach is to try to strategize at the beginning of a campaign of how to make the paid, owned, earned model work. Aencies need to be bringing this kind of value to their clients.
Social media as a discipline is still in its infancy. As a digital media professional who built a career in the paid media space, I'm constantly looking at social media properties and consumer behavior to find the best ways to impressions against owned and earned, because buying social media can really take a big chunk out of a campaign budget.
Social media seems to be stepping out of the earned media camp and further into paid media everyday. But consumers aren't necessary noticing this. And as the industry evolves and benchmarks are determined, we may be able to get back to a place where viral advertising can become a reality. For now, you get what you pay for in most cases -- except for that rare exception that keeps us all wanting.
My advice is to keep trying and you will figure out tactics that do generate interest in social media for "free." Social media now is what display advertising was in the early years. Then the IAB did XMOS studies and roadshows, leading digital companies did their part to educate clients -- and now display advertising continues to grow, mature and prosper. Social media is going to need this same kind of deconstruction and analysis so the industry can get on the same page about what to expect.