Military students often learn of a certain mistake that a commander can make: fighting last year’s war with this year’s tools. The lesson is that it may not work to use the newest techniques and technologies as a way to do the same old thing more effectively, when the answer instead might be using new tools to foster an entirely new approach. The concept holds true in many fields, especially in the discipline of social media marketing.
The Internet and the Web are incredibly powerful tools, enabling high-speed communication and extraordinarily widespread access. Marketers of the late 80s would have killed for the ability to get their commercials in front of the billions of people who use the Web today. Both technologies have revolutionized the way people communicate, allowing letters to be sent to hundreds of recipients for pennies and no postage. The viral message has become one of the most talked about features of the modern age. So why do so many advertisers simply use the Web in the same fashion as television or radio advertisements?
People aren’t always able to see the possibilities in a new technology, for one thing. Yes, this is the age of YouTube and the viral video, but for the majority of its existence the Web has been accessed through dialup rather than broadband. Apart from attachment-free emails and instant message texts, communication over the Internet wasn’t necessarily any more efficient than television. Large video or even audio files were not something that could be downloaded quickly, so the Web was simply not prepared for advertisers to try out their entirely new visions.
Of course, now that broadband is widely available and increasing in speed all the time, this has all changed. Videos can be downloaded in minutes, and audio podcasts often take mere seconds to acquire. The technology has grown into much more of its potential capability, and the time has come to pioneer new methods for dealing with it. To do so, advertisers and marketers need to be aware of some basic facts.
pan class=”bold”>Fact 1 – the Web is Ceaseless
Television has a schedule; one that hasn’t varied greatly in the last few decades. There is daytime television, prime time television, and late night television. There are tidewaters for when certain materials can be shown. Advertising campaigns are built around these schedules, beginning and ending at certain times.
This does not, cannot, and will not ever work for the Web.
There is always someone on the Web. There are no tidewaters for when certain information will be more desirable, because every time one user logs off to get some sleep or go to work, twenty more may log on just three time zones west.
There cannot be an advertising ‘campaign’ in the traditional sense of the word under these circumstances. With people constantly logging in and out of the assorted social sites to check up on what’s popular, or who’s still friends with whom, a single commercial isn’t going to particularly register. Modern marketing techniques need to look at ways to maintain a persistent, natural presence in the minds of their audience if they’re to have any hope of keeping up.
Fact 2 – the Web is Interactive
This has been discussed in many, many places and in just as many ways. Post anything at all, and the Web will give feedback, informed or uninformed. All those people who are logging on have opinions that they might not necessarily have leeway to express at the office, and they’re all too happy to share them online.
Discussions of the pros and cons of this phenomenon can be had just about anywhere, so instead consider the example of the online humor site, Cracked. Formerly a magazine in the style of MAD magazine, Cracked has always specialized in offbeat humor that looks at the ironies in life. It also never quite managed to compete with its more popular cousin, and has periodically gone out of print.
Now, however, Cracked has embraced the online model with gusto, and is one of the most popular video and text humor sites around. In particular, they created a workshop calling to people who understood their particular sense of the ironic, and offered to pay for quality articles. Anyone is invited to sign up in the forum, toss around ideas, and the good ones are purchased. Instead of paying a fixed staff of writers, the magazine now has a massive pool of talent that provides fresh angles and weird ideas in bulk.
Fact 3 – the Web is Multicultural
Multiculturalism is one of those hot words that can cause massive debate just about anywhere, and is not something this article is focused on. However, the fact of the Web is that people from China now can and do have long discussions with folk from Denmark, who chat with young people in the USA, who play online shooters with fellow fans from Mexico.
There is of course still room to focus on a core audience. A shoe store in the US with no international aspirations hardly needs a Swedish language option on their site. However, many people in the south and southwest of the United States speak Spanish as a first or second language, and going so far as to include even this small option could open up a new world of grateful customers.
The point is that those who want to maximize their reach need to understand that the Web is diverse and not the least bit homogeneous. Assumptions and preconceptions have to be checked at the door, and an open-mindedness ready to reach out to others on their terms will do any company good service.