A Tipping Point For Social Media Advertising

A cultural tipping point, a concept given definition and made famous by Malcolm Gladwell's phenomenal study of cultural epidemics, "The Tipping Point," is the point at which an idea reaches a critical mass within a society, and in effect gains its own momentum. Engineering cultural tipping points through marketing and advertising has long been the goal of brands for their products. Historically, the most prominent way to engineer cultural tipping points for brands has been through purchasing people's attention on their preferred media sources (television, magazines, radio).

However, the new social media landscape has given rise to an interesting phenomenon. As advertisers and agencies rely ever increasingly on individuals to pass along their marketing message, the advertising and marketing messages themselves must now achieve their own tipping points within the social media communities in order for marketing and advertising to continue to be an effective tool for brand advertisers (I promise to explain that mess of a thought). Additionally, the advertising industry, investor community, social networks and countless ad networks wait with breath held (some anxious, some terrified, some frustrated) in anticipation of the advertising ecosystem's tipping point that leads to an epidemic of online branding. The idea being, the occurrence of such a tipping point in the advertising community will lead to tens of billions of brand advertising dollars shifting towards social media to effectively realign with people's attention.



I want to break the duality of advertising seeking its social media tipping point into two pieces. With the remainder of this week's article we will look at engineering tipping points as an execution strategy for advertising within social media. Next Tuesday we will look at the events that will likely precede and potentially indicate a tipping point for the advertising industry toward online branding efforts.

To be perfectly clear: Engineering a tipping point for your marketing message within social media and "going viral" are NOT the same. Going viral is simply the obvious, desirable end result of successfully engineering a tipping point for your marketing message.

It's easy to see why effective delivery of a brand's marketing messages within social media requires a tipping point creation strategy, once only the end goal for the brand's product. One need only examine the similarities between the adoption of a brand's end product and adoptiion of its marketing message in social media. First and foremost, the people who adopt/distribute your message in social media are the same people who purchase your products in the real world (see my previous column, "Social Media Advertising: The 'Publisher Is The Consumer.'").

Secondly, success for both the product and the marketing message is voluntary adoption by a critical mass of people. Finally, as with brand products, people have nearly limitless choices when deciding what brand message to associate with. The similarities go on.

So once we understand the need to engineer the conception, packaging and introduction of brand marketing messages in social media as we would engineer a brand product, we can look for best practices.

First, we must create marketing messages likely to achieve adoption by a critical mass of people (see "The Future Of Ad Creative In Pull Markets"). A simple concept, but a new one for advertising, where the focus hasn't been adoption of message for delivery, but rather, the effect of the message once delivered, since distribution has historically been purchased.

Second, we must consider the value received by the person adopting the marketing message. This value can be the quality of the creative art work, the functionality the creative might provide (i.e. widgets) and/or the opportunity to receive brand products (see promotional budgets/contests).

Next, like great brand products, availability is a key success factor for social media campaigns. In the product world this might mean shelf space and logistics. In the social media world this means ease of message for adoption by critical masses of people and the ability to get that "adoptable" message in front of the right people to begin with.

Finally, there is the key tool for stacking the success of engineering social media campaign tipping points -- message delivery through mass media. Creating tipping points for brand products has commonly meant utilization of mass media. Creating a tipping point for your social media marketing campaigns requires tapping the same mass media outlets (yes, television will continue to support your social media campaigns until everyone has TiVo), but perhaps more importantly, you must tap the new mass media, the social network. The new mass media are the MySpaces and Facebooks. The analogy here is this: when advertisers wanted to create a cultural tipping point for a brand product in the real world, advertisers worked with the pervasive mass media outlets of that society. When marketers and advertisers want to create a tipping point for their marketing messages within social networks, they will gain significant advantage by working with the pervasive mass media outlet of that society, the social network platform.

Next week we will start to dig in on the signs of advertising as an industry reaching its tipping point toward a concentration on online branding efforts. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Next story loading loading..