How Does Industry Pro Use Of Social Media Influence Media Neutrality?

One of my favorite dirty little secrets about covering the advertising business is the concept of "media neutrality," especially the notion that the personal media-consumption preferences of advertising and media-buying pros sometimes influences what media they buy and how much they spend on it.

When I started covering the business in the early 1980s, the perception was that glossy consumer magazines and popular cable TV networks that appealed to young media planners got on the plan, because, well, they were popular with the planners themselves.

And it was no coincidence that those media also wined and dined planners -- both you and old -- as well as advertisers at fancy restaurants, lavish parties or various highfalutin' boondoggles like Forbes' magazine's hot-air balloon retreats or cruises on its Highlander yacht.

In 1988, I even wrote a cover story for Marketing & Media Decisions magazine (see bottom) examining how young planners making below subsistence wages ($15,000 to $18,000 a year) were influencing multimillion-dollar media plans.

That's probably not happening as much today, because there are far fewer subsistence-level media planners, and far more programmatic buys -- but the truth is that personal media biases still influence both plans and media-buying outcomes.

So I was struck when former Madison Avenue honcho turned social-media reputation manager Bant Breen shared the latest annual survey from Qnary showing that Twitter is by far the dominant platform business executives use to share professional content with other industry pros.

Breen, who previously was a young turk at Interpublic who helped the holding company pioneer the then-emerging category of social media (he actually negotiated IPG's startup stake in Facebook), founded Qnary because he believed social media was shaping the reputations of business professionals -- not just in advertising and media, but all industries -- and this is the sixth annual study it has conducted about their own social media habits.

The reason I'm pointing this top line finding out, is that I believe social media in general -- and Twitter in particular -- command a disproportionate share of executive attention, which likely influences the relative importance they hold for the medium in their own advertising and marketing plans.

What Spy magazine and MTV were to media neutrality in the 1980s, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram are to it today.

That doesn't surprise me.

What does surprise me is that LinkedIn, a social media platform built for professional networking, doesn't show up higher among the platforms business execs use to share professional content. (It's not even broken out in Qnary's report).

On the flip side, LinkedIn is far and away the No. 1 platform business execs go to for consumer professional content, although Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are also heavily used.

"We compiled the research in Q4 2022 at a time when hyperbolic news circulated about Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, Meta continued to harp about the Metaverse whilst showing minimal significant customer traction to the vision, and news coverage regarding the status of the global economy filled all of us with recessionary trepidation following the long pandemic," Breen notes in the intro to this year's report, adding that it shows "Twitter appears to still have considerable utility for executives as they build out their online presences."

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