If you are on Twitter then you know that there is a bit of a race to gain followers, since followers determine (to some extent) your influence on Twitter…aka “twinfluence”. Without a larger context, such a race makes Twitter seem more of an arbitrary popularity contest than a legitimate business tool, with tweeters clamoring for followers despite who those followers may be. There is an unspoken idea that those who have hundreds of thousands of followers are the “thought leaders” and those with hundreds of thousands of followers who only follow a few people are the thought leaders of the thought leaders–garnering much Twitter prestige.
But how does one use such prestige? To sell one’s product? To tweet about other people’s products? To influence?
Although my philosophy is that Twitter shouldn’t be about random followings in either direction (I believe in a functional, community oriented use of twitter – on which I will elaborate in another post), what is of interest with the number of followers is the very power of people–random and not so random–to be influential in a quick, broadcasted way to hundreds of thousands of other people. Let’s be clear: The bulk of social media isn’t about telling people what you ate for dinner last night, and Twitter is one example of the power of social media as word of mouth influence on large numbers of people about products, services and brands.
Legitimate business tweeters are recognizing the power of Twitter to get their message out…not through spamming ads but by tweeting with resources in their areas of expertise such as links to solid blogs, community sites, research, etc. There is an awareness among companies that social media might have some relationship to brand awareness and loyalty, but the dots haven’t all been connected yet–and believe it or not, there are quite a lot of brank marketers and ad agencies that are still reticent to help connect those dots for their clients.
One tweeter, understanding the power of social media for word of mouth and viral marketing, asked why anyone, given twitter, would invest in traditional media outlets for communicating their message. My husband was doing a presentation for a potential client on shifting their marketing dollars to online media (one step closer to social media!) and showed me a table that listed barriers to entry into social media adoption by brand marketers and ad agencies (eMarketer, 2009).
What was interesting to me about these statistics was the seeming skepticism and lack of knowledge about social media by ad agencies and brand marketers.
How about the reticence signaled by brand marketer and agency answers to these questions: “Social Media is not a proven/tested strategy” (granted, this question could have been better worded) in which 31% of ad agencies surveyed feel social media isn’t proven, 28% “don’t think there is an established way to measure the effectiveness of social media”, while 31% claim they really “don’t know enough about it to know where to begin” and don’t have the time to figure it out (17%)! And based on the follow up questions, the reticence to adopt social media isn’t because they are worried about the legalities or that there are barriers to social media use for brand management.
What’s the Issue?
We’ve all heard the song “video killed the radio star” by The Buggles. (If you haven’t, you can see the video here: http://bit.ly/7Kkl )Released in 1979, the song pays homage to what was deemed a game changer for music: the advent of the music video. (If they had only known about the digital revolution that would really kill radio and TV as we used to know it! ) In a similar vein, social media is doing much the same thing to brand marketers and ad agencies–shifting the conversation–and if the research is any indication, it doesn’t seem that they like the shift.
As someone really on board with social media I had to ask “Why not?” Don’t agencies and marketers GAIN by ensuring their future contracts with clients who DO recognize the shifting conversation about their brand and want an agency that can guide them into that future? Wouldn’t agencies want to be the thought leaders around a new and powerful medium for brand recognition for their clients?
The truth is that this is about the democratization of what ad agencies want to hold onto–the management, the message, the conversation about brands. Ad agencies make money on brand management. Twitter is free. And there’s the rub.
Gonna Wash that (Ad) Man Right out of Your Hair?
Still, the smart agencies are recognizing that social media is here to stay and are getting on board – beginning to use the analysis tools that have been developed to help companies understand how their brands are being talked about, what people like or don’t like and using that real time information to help their clients truly manage their brand also in real time. Many of these tools are free, such as Techrigy, but there are hundreds of them currently available and more of them being developed every day.
For those that embrace these tools, there is money to be made because there is real data on which to base recommendations for how to position a brand, which conversations to be a part of, how to get into the social media space as a brand. The money is still there to be made–but now, its made on smart, real time information rather than reliance solely on surveys and focus groups.
The question is whether the old school mad men are going to get on board or risk losing their clients to the new school agencies that understand the power of social media for the brand management–for now and in the future.
If you want to know what tools are out there, how to use them and why, be sure to sign up “Tools Week” presented by the Social Media Academy in November. You can lean all about it here: http://bit.ly/179bs7