IPA Social Media Report – Marketing Week

Alan Mitchell, of ‘Right Side Up’ fame, wrote about the IPA Social Media Report in his Marketing Week column a couple of weeks back (I can’t find a link to it, I think MW put up articles after a month of them being first published). 

Anyway, the IPA forwarded it to me, and asked if I might like to write a letter in response to his thoughts, and it’s in this week’s issue, which I thought I’d stick up here too, for anyone who wants to read it but like me has to steal one off someone else’s desk.

(btw – in MW they titled it “Use social media to raise brand awareness”, which I don’t think it actually says, but there you go.  I can tell Mum I was ‘misquoted in the press’ or something on the phone at the weekend…)


After being on the panel discussion at the IPA’s launch of their Social Media Report, I read last week’s column by Alan Mitchell with great interest, and came away with a mixed bag of feelings; total agreement, frustrated disagreement, and an overall sensation of relief.<o:p></o:p>

First, the agreement; social media is a different beast than anything the marketing community has dealt with in the past.  Yet first attempts to engage with this most twenty-first century of phenomenon were distinctly twentieth century in design.<o:p></o:p>

Slapping banner ads across social networking sites is the equivalent of a few scattered beer mats in a packed throng of a pub on a Saturday night.  As Alan states, it’s not what anyone’s there for, they’re socialising with each other.  Very few people will actually pick up the beer mat, hence what Graeme Wood @ Zenith referred to deliciously as ‘IgnoreThru’ rates of 99.1% (http://bit.ly/ignorethru).<o:p></o:p>

Equally, it’s very difficult for a ‘brand’ to act in these spaces and communicate with people… people like talking to other people who have something interesting to say and show interest in listening to them.  Putting up ‘fan groups’ on social networking sites is pointless unless you have someone running it as if it were their personal page… if the lights are on, someone’s got to be home.<o:p></o:p>

Now, the disagreement; whilst the use of social media has not yet struck gold often enough, to hear someone with Alan’s commitment to innovation and reinvention dismiss it as a faddish area, suitable solely for youth and fashion brands, is really pretty disappointing.  <o:p></o:p>

There is a huge gap in between ‘raising awareness’ and ‘point of consideration’ in which social media has much potential.  Advertising is finding itself replaced as the source of information; we increasingly trust the internet, and the consumer opinion and price checking sites Alan refers to.  <o:p></o:p>

Yet we have seen time and again that connections can be made between companies and people only if the companies bring something to the party; do you entertain?  Or educate?  Are you useful in some way?  Or are you simply helping people connect to others with a similar outlook on life?  (http://bit.ly/brand2pt0).  <o:p></o:p>

This generosity of spirit by companies builds warmer connections, so that upon entering the consideration stage people aren’t just choosing based on the rational facts open to them, but the emotional attachment they have to particular companies.  In the event of a near tie on price & peer approval, emotional attachment is hugely important in the final decision.<o:p></o:p>

Finally, the sense of relief we’re finally talking about this properly, as an industry.<o:p></o:p>

That the IPA has taken the step of creating this report sends a signal to agency heads, marketing directors and chief executives everywhere; this is important.  Take notice, think about what you’re doing about it.  Ask your agency some questions about it, and make sure you get some good answers.<o:p></o:p>

Not that the key answers will come from the report itself; as acknowledged by the IPA, isn’t the social media Holy Grail.  <o:p></o:p>

But it is a brilliant conversation starter.  There is huge appetite amongst those who get it to develop the report into an illuminating, crowd-sourced second version.  And we’d love Alan, and anyone else out there who’s interested, to join in here: http://bit.ly/IPAblog.<o:p></o:p>

Because social is as social does.

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