I don’t get to go to SXSW because I have to pay for my own airfare. I can only go to the conferences that pay the airfare for me to come and speak. Such is the life of an independent consultant. However, I am fortunate enough to know some people who work for an organisation sufficiently large and enlightened to pay for some of its people to go to SXSW and since these people know what I am interested in – they can point me to the bits of it they think I might be interested in. And they pointed me to a presentation by Kristina @Halvorson.
It starts with an expose of the famous Oreo “dunk in the dark” Superbowl tweet which sent the marketing industry into such paroxysms of ecstasy. The basis for her criticism was essentially the fact that while this tweet rocked the marketing world, it didn’t rock the world of the consumer for whom it was intended, basically because the actual numbers it reached were miniscule (in comparison say with the total numbers who tweeted about the event or watched it on television, or who might be considered Oreo’s target audience). Music to my ears – so much so that I am going to use this example in a presentation at a conference in Hamburg in two days time. (This is a conference which is paying for me to attend: In-Cosmetics 2014 if you are interested).
As Kristina says, just look at the numbers. Check out the numbers on engagement with corporate Facebook pages for example and you will see that Facebook is a good way of reaching around 0.12 per cent of your audience, if you are lucky (as explained in paragraph 12 of this post). In fact there are no audiences in social media, because it is a medium of connection not a medium of distribution. Social media is a high engagement, low reach medium, whereas traditional media/marketing is a high reach, low engagement media. You can’t make traditional marketing more engaging simply by dumping it in social media or expect that social media will distribute your shit for you. It won’t – mostly because it isn’t an ‘it’ which you can buy, it is a ‘them’ (which won’t be bought).
She then gets stuck into the Coca Cola Content 2020 video and how it transformed content strategy (for the worse). Oh yes! How many times have I used this video in presentations as an example of the wrong approach to content (and social in general). This arrogant belief that the task is to ‘provoke’ the conversations a brand wants to have with consumers (how is provocation social?) rather than listening and responding to the conversations consumers want to have with a brand. (Kristina, for info, the cute British voice-over guy is not just the voice-over guy: he is the main man, Jonathan Mildenhall, Coca Cola chief creative guru. I even got into a bit of a Twitter conversation with him and he asked me for my thoughts on a better direction. Here they are. I don’t think he really liked them).
Kristina’s talk is also littered with some great one-liners such as: question from the marketing director “why are we not on Pinterest?” Answer “Er – because you are a washing detergent.”
She wraps up with the assessment that the main reason most marketing people don’t really want to talk to their consumers is that this would mean confronting the fact that most consumers really don’t care about what brands have to say, they just want them to “fix their shit”. Amen to that. The real shame is that if a brand could actually figure out a way of establishing for itself a reputation as a brand that is genuinely connected to its consumers (in the way in which consumers want to be connected to it), the opportunity here is huge. And it is not difficult to do this, albeit it means reconfiguring what your definition of marketing actually is – which is the real reason ‘marketing people’ don’t want to do it.
I perhaps do differ a little from Kristina in the assessment of what to do about all this. Her view is to slow down and do the things you started doing better, rather than rush onto the new things. This stuff is seen as getting better content on your website. This is fair enough, but websites are creatures of the world of the audience and the new, social, space is the world of the individual. No matter how good your website is, it is not going to really help you in this new space, where information (and Google) rather than content, is king. In this world a content strategy is defined as a process, much more than by a set of outputs. No TV news editor can tell you what content will be in the bulletin next Wednesday – but they will be able to tell you what process you need to have in place to ensure that next Wednesday the bulletin will have the right content in it. So it is with brands and content strategies – or as I like to call them: information management strategies.
So – thank you Kristina. I sometimes feel like a voice in the wilderness on this one and have to deal with similar amounts of frustration when I see big companies who should know better spending huge amounts of money on agencies to commission so-called digital or content strategies that are simply a variant on the “be with your consumers where they are on (Facebook, Twitter, mobile, Pinterest, YadaYada etc.) and P.S. pay us lots of money to do this for you” as though these things were simply new forms of media or channels. These things are not forms of media, they are forms of behaviour. Social media is not a channel and message challenge, it is a behaviour identification and response challenge. You only get value from it by harnessing its power as a medium of connection, not as a medium of distribution.
Anyway – for more stuff I have written on this check out: