There's the door

You could be forgiven for thinking that the future of marketing and communications as we know it is grim. The sentiment around the use of social media by brands, as well as the slow deaths of some of the world’s most influential media empires is less than inspiring to the industry. But ask a panel of experts in the field whether they dislike social media, and you may be surprised by the answer.

If you haven’t noticed, traditional companies are flocking to these knew platforms and throwing resources that way because they want to crack the code of how they can manipulate these mediums to serve their businesses. This negative sentiment we assume that television networks and newspapers have toward social media, as if it’s drawing attention away from their products, is present more so in the minds of commentators than it is in the heads of network executives.

At a discussion on the future of marketing and communication hosted by Melbourne University, the panel which included Network Ten’s Russel Howcroft as well as our founder here at Dialogue Consulting, Hugh Stephens, concluded that the traditional media does not hate social media, but are instead empowered by it.

According to Howcroft, the upcoming “threat” to television of generation ‘Z’ having five screens going at once is not something that keeps him up at night, remarking that back in the day when he’d visit his Grandmother, she’d have the TV and radio on, a Woman’s Weekly and Herald newspaper by her side, and would be talking on the phone whilst simultaneously smoking a cigarette. Social media isn’t the distraction that’s going to kill TV. And, with that example in mind, it stands to reason that viewers have always been distracted whilst consuming media. The rise of social is no more a threat to effective advertising as the newspaper was before it. Plus if you haven’t noticed, you can advertise on social too.

Which leads into the biggest point of the night. “Social” is a buzzword that isn’t dying anytime soon. Every company big and small, government or private, for better or worse, seems to have an interest in developing a social presence. But with such a diverse range of platforms to choose from, businesses need to seriously analyse the value proposition of which platform they choose.

In an analogy presented early in the evening, Stephens spoke of a government department expressing an interest in making an Instagram page, and their stunned response to the question “What exactly would you post on there?”. Much in the way it is consumed by users, there’s an impulsivity companies feel about getting social, but there’s no point being part of a platform your brand doesn’t suit, or that you’re simply not going to interact with appropriately. The more impulsively you jump into it, the more stunned you will be when it doesn’t produce an immediate result.

“Do it well, or get out” Stephens said. And, it’s honestly as simple as that.

This negative sentiment so many think lingers around those making the content we think social media is taking the attention away from, actually exists among the faithful users of platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Now that every important content creator in the world has a presence on social, the little loyal early adopters have seen their once charming social networks enter the mainstream, bringing along with them some of the most annoying things from the real-world like, ads.

The consensus is that the true value of your brand going social is the ability to retrieve concentrated data on consumers. You can discover who they are, what they like, and how you can make them happy and share your product in their network. Ads for social are cheaper to produce than traditional media like television, and the information you can retrieve gives you a better indicator of how users actually interact with your product.

If they’re not interacting, you’re not doing it right. With so many places for people to go, and the negative connotations of advertising that have always existed, if you’re going to be social, you need to be smart and above all, creative.

“Get good writers and you’ll improve your business” said Russell Howcroft. Creativity drives content that is good. If you’re product doesn’t tell a good story about why they’re there with an audience in their social space, it’s not worth the time.