Consumers & Content Still Central In Social Media

Have you heard of Pinterest yet? There’s been plenty of buzz about it recently, and it’s even won an award. Why? Because its traffic figures are going “gang-busters“ and so, obviously, according to the majority of tech blogs, it’s the “social media platform you have to get on board with in 2012.”

Sound familiar? Well, last year you probably would have heard similar stuff about Quora, or Tumblr, or Instagram, or even, for about 3 seconds, Color.

I wasn’t going to write about Pinterest, and why its acquisition of the much-coveted title of “most-hyped social site of the month” is something that marketers should take with a pinch of salt, but two recent posts I read made me change my mind.

Firstly, uber-VC Fred Wilson (someone who I hugely respect) wrote a post about how social media is fragmenting and in it he said:

 If you are building a social media strategy today, you absolutely need to address Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr. And you should also consider Foursquare, Instagram, Pinterest and Path. If you are in the music business, you need to consider SoundCloud. If you are in the book business, you need to consider Wattpad. If you are in the TV business, you need to conside GetGlue. And so on and so forth.

Now, obviously, as someone who has invested in many of these companies (something he is very open about), he knows his stuff when it comes to digital start-ups. But my worry is that this sort of advice might not be so great when planning marketing budgets.

It’s The Consumer, Stupid

That’s because marketing should start with the target consumer, not with technology. If you start with the objective of creating a Tumblr strategy (something I would argue isn’t even possible), then you’ve started on the wrong path, and may find it hard to correct that. If you start with an audit of your audience, what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, where they’re doing it, then you may end up deciding that you need to use Tumblr (or Pinterest, or whatever) to connect with them, and at that point you will need to create a campaign, or tactical execution to do so.

This leads me to the second post I read (though I actually read it before Fred’s), and it was right here on Marketing Land. A couple of weeks ago, (the very brilliant) Rebecca Lieb wrote about the intersection of TV & social media. Now I’m a massive believer in social TV but one of the things she said was:

These days, families are more likely to gather around a computer for a bonding media experience. DVRs mean programming is often time-shifted. There’s less and less “event” viewing — shows like sporting events or the Academy Awards that are timely or time-sensitive enough to warrant watching live…What can save television? Following its audience online, and re-socializing television digitally by integrating it with social media.

Obviously the research about people bonding around digital devices is compelling (all I’ll say is that it should be noted that the research was commissioned and paid for by a tech company), but actually the facts tell us that TV viewing is still going up, while anyone who watches TV (which is nearly all of us) will know that the TV stations are doing everything they can to increase the number of “event” shows: XFactor, Apprentice, Masterchef — all of them need to be watched live — and social platforms are a big part of what makes “event” participation compelling.

But while not wanting to miss out on the Twitter chat when your favorite show is on obviously benefits the stations, which much prefer live viewing (although they don’t mind time-shifted PVR/TiVo viewing that much either, as, although people tend to skip a lot of ads, the time-shifted viewing tends to be incremental — meaning they end up watching more ads overall), I think we also need to admit how much it benefits the social platforms, too.

Back in 2007, Forrester came up with its Social Technographic Ladder which defined the different types of users of social media: at the top were “creators”, the small but highly engaged bullseye that every marketer wanted to target. Now I’ve argued, and I believe, that the ladder has fallen over, and that now almost anyone can be a creator. If we define a tweet or a status update as creating something, then most people online are. But the thing is, this creation is symbiotic and tends to rely on professional content, whether that be a Superbowl, a news story or a song.

Facebook knows this, and that’s why their renewed focus on apps is not being built around games and gimmicks, but rather content and experiences, whether that be reading, listening, watching or even eating. So if you want to connect on Facebook it’s going to mean less time thinking of the next Angry Birds (unless you’re a game manufacturer), more time coming up with your brand’s version of Nike+, Heineken’s Star Player or Kraft’s recipes content.

What this means is that when you’re planning your communications strategy and how to execute it socially, you should start by thinking about your audience and what they’re doing. Then you should think about what content you’re going to give them to create around. Because being social doesn’t mean, no matter what people say, that you have to talk to your audience. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, but you certainly shouldn’t feel you have to — it’s often better to enable real, person to person conversations, and to do so around truly social content.

(Note: Nike and Heineken are currently clients of Mindshare.)

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing Column


About The Author: is the Chief Digital Officer for Mindshare Australia, where he is responsible for the overall digital output of the agency, including ensuring that search, social, mobile and video are integrated into the broader marketing mix. He has worked in online marketing since 2000 at a number of publishers and agencies.

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