How Brands Can Cash In On Social Media Addiction


Social media is the drug addiction of the new millennium. It’s done at home, in the workplace, in private, with strangers, and out in the open with friends. Just look around on any given day and observe how many people are mentally, physically, metaphorically and literally hooked on their mobile devices and laptops. They’re running around all hopped up on Facebook, email, Twitter, videos, social apps, YouTube, games and anything else that connects one person to some software and then back to other people. Most of it’s free, and once they’re hooked they can’t live without it. I know this, because my agency has been a party to the spread of this addiction. Yes, I do feel some guilt, but I’m comforted by the knowledge that if it wasn’t me feeding their habits, it would be someone else.

So how does your brand’s marketing team score some of the action? As any dealer knows, the idea is to give your clients a taste for free, turn them into junkies, charge them for more, keep them coming back and then raise the price. But, premium sites aside, most content is free and either user-generated (UGC) or created for marketing purposes. If you’re not going to charge them money, then you have to ask for something of equal value: their TIME and ATTENTION.

 First, a quick guide to standard social media drug classifications:


  • YouTube. YouTube is social media crack. Videos are easy to find, cheap to use, they don’t last very long and you always want more. Addicts can take a quick hit during their lunch hour or sneak a fix on their break.
  • Facebook. Facebook is the beer and wine of social media. Inhibitions are low, reality is inflated and everyone talks nonstop about themselves and everyone else. So very convenient for marketers :)
  • Twitter. Twitter is the cocaine of social media: fast-acting, self-centered and highly addictive. Conversations are quick, brief and wear off before you know it.
  • Google+. Google+ is the acid of social media: colorful, lots of talk and excitement, and way more interesting with friends.
  • Pinterest. Leave your own classification in the comments section below.

The best way to earn fans’ time and attention is to leverage your branded content across select social media channels. And by leverage, I mean PUSH it. Don’t wait for it to be found. Find your fans and give them what they’re looking for!

How To Get Them Hooked

There are two ways that brands are getting the attention of the social media addicts: by being the dealer or the producer. Being the dealer involves slapping your brand name on user-generated or other free content. You’re supplying what they need, while advertising something else they might need. Imagine a dealer on the corner with on his hoodie saying “Hey, while you’re lighting up, check out our website for some great deals on snack items.”  Note that the dealer went with snacks rather than something like cleaning supplies? The last thing you want to sell stoners is cleaning supplies. That’s what you advertise to the meth addicts.

But still, you’re not making the drugs, you just deal them in exchange for time and attention. You’re not always sure what’s in them or what effect they’ll have on the user, in the same way you’re not quite sure exactly what kinds of UGC your marketing messaging will be up against on top social media sites.

The second way brands are getting the attention of social media addicts is by being the drug producer, and creating original content like branded entertainment, videos, web series, social apps, games, and anything else that’ll get them all hopped up on your brand, and passing it around to their friends. In this scenario, you make the drugs and control the entire user experience. You get to decide what trip to send them on and then they decide where the trip goes from there. Make some good s--t  and you’ll have them coming back for more and turning on their friends.

Whether you decide to go along for the ride on the existing flood of social content, or create original content that carries your brand name and message, the trick is to become part of the culture and blend in. Whatever you do, don’t let them think you’re a narc, or they’ll turn on you... and then you’re finished.

1 comment about "How Brands Can Cash In On Social Media Addiction".
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  1. Latease Rikard from LMR Publishing, March 8, 2012 at 12:11 p.m.

    I love this...particularly from the creative vein of it all David. It's so true though, take a look at the public obsession with the release of the Ipad3 yesterday, it was bigger news than Peyton Manning getting released by the Colts! Nobody cared that Peyton is a free agent in the NFL now, one of the top quarterbacks in the league, no! We wanted to know what else could the new toy on the block do that would enhance our social media activities. If that isn't an addiction, you tell me what is. I think Lynn was taking the literal meaning of the term drug addict, which does have a negative connotation, however, an addiction is an addiction. Just ask Michael Douglas, the actor, he had a sex addiction, didn't he?

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