A Cranky, Skeptical Loudmouth Looks at Social Media Marketing

I stand naked before you with the intent of committing heresy (okay, I’m not really naked, but I’m still pretty unsettling to look at.) My heresy is this:

I don’t think the internet is all that interactive.

If I’m right, this has big ramifications for us in the online marketing world.

Let’s start at the beginning.

What Do We Mean By Interactivity?

I know the web is interactive for you, and I know it’s interactive for me. But for the vast majority of internet users – the ones who don’t have blogs and don’t have their own websites – it is mostly another passive medium. And it’s getting passiver. If that’s a word.

Before you start hyperventilating, let’s define our terms. What do we mean by interactivity? I propose the following definition: the ability to interact with the content of the medium, not just the medium.

For example, television. You interact with the medium all the time. You change the channel. You turn the volume up and down. You lighten and darken the picture. But you don’t think of it as an interactive medium because you can’t interact with the content.

The web, on the other hand, allows you to post a comment about what an idiot I am, and it will appear on the screen almost instantaneously. So, rightly, you consider the internet more interactive than tv.

But how much more interactive? It is my contention that web interactivity is continuing to grow for most every function except marketing. It is my further contention that marketing on the web is evolving very much as marketing on tv evolved – people with stuff yelling at people with money.

The Electric Library Card

There are three major ways that marketing is manifest on the web: search, display, and social marketing. The most frequent use of the web in marketing has been search. Search is worrisome because it does not really fit our definition of interactivity.

Search is interactive in only the most mechanical sense. It is really just a very smart library card that allows us to access the stacks quickly and (sometimes) easily. We do not contribute to the content.

Two In A Thousand

Display is also worrisome. It’s hard to imagine a medium that could be more intrusive, wasteful, and inefficient than direct mail. But display is it.

The latest best figures I can find show that the response (click-through) rates on display ads on the web are less than two in a thousand. This is ridiculously small. It is almost 10 times smaller than direct mail. And remember, with direct mail in order to interact you have to tear off a post card, find a pen, fill out a card, walk to the mailbox and drop it in. With display ads, all you need to do is move your finger.

How can it be that display ads are so ineffective? Simple. We all trained our eyes to ignore banners ten years ago. Just like we trained our eyes to ignore small space newspaper ads.

When it became evident that display was a lousy response medium, those selling it to us changed their tune. Now it’s a branding medium. To this I can only say – yeah, right.

Marketing To Ourselves

So the best hope for the web as a truly interactive marketing medium is the conversation, i.e. social marketing. I am sure there are wonderful examples of marketers building valuable and profitable social networks. But please, don’t post comments with anecdotes of the wonderful social network this or that company has built. For every success you post, I can post a hundred failures. Let’s make that a thousand.

I don’t care what the conversation advocates say, the average consumer simply does not have the time or the inclination to have conversations with marketers. Most of them, wisely, don’t have conversations with their husbands. Why in the world would they want to have conversations with us?

You and I are web geeks. We spend way more time than we should looking at computer screens. We are not normal. Especially you. The biggest mistake any marketer can make is marketing to himself, i.e. assuming his customer is just like him. They’re not and they never will be.

The Age Old Problem

When it comes to marketing, the average person uses his computer much as he uses his television — in passive mode. He sits back and looks at what’s on the screen and when he’s tired of what’s on the screen he clicks to change the channel, uh, page.

Don’t kid yourself. As an online marketer, you are facing the same challenge that every marketer since the beginning of commerce has faced: How do you attract the attention of people who are actively trying to avoid you? The methods currently in our arsenal just aren’t good enough.

It would be lovely if the “social network/conversationalist” crowd were right and interactivity between marketer and marketee would evolve as a caring, loving relationship.

I’m officially skeptical.

About the Author: Bob Hoffman is CEO of Hoffman/Lewis advertising in San Francisco and St Louis. He is author of the book The Ad Contrarian and The Ad Contrarian blog.

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Comments

  1. Interesting perspective. You should turn off comments for this post. You know, for effect.

    Daniel

  2. OMG I love interactive skeptics! Thanks for nudging my curiosity factor.

  3. I’ve posited before that every form of communication is simply a replacement for face-to-face contact. Each has its pros and its cons. The telegraph is extremely impersonal, but allowed people to communicate relatively quickly over long distances. The telephone is a little more personal, but still doesn’t match sitting down with your friend for a coffee (or a beer…)

    The Internet has the capability of increasing that communication level. Although you don’t always hear a voice, you can play a game of chess a lot easier with your friend, watch a YouTube video, etc. Do all this *while* on the phone, and you increase your interactivity even more.

    If we can agree that nothing can sell a product or service like good word of mouth, then interruption advertising will have a relatively poor response no matter what the medium. As you pointed out, we’ve trained ourselves to ignore banner ads (remember when they were “cool”?)

    But social networking at least has possibilities. I remember an article I read about marketing Christina Aguilera years ago. Before her initial release, the record company created a buzz about her by going to Britney Spears chat rooms and talking about this “new, up-and-coming singer”. Obviously this isn’t the only reason she shot to fame, but it is a big reason why she had a solid fan base even before she released her album.

    I think ultimately it won’t be the consumers talking with the marketers, but the consumers talking with other consumers in a subtly-guided way. If you look at forums like Alli, you have a situation where people can talk amongst each other *and* have access to company-approved literature.

    But I think the biggest way that the Internet can be interactive — for marketers anyway — is to be where the consumers are, when they are there. Perhaps this is “reverse interactivity” but you can find out fairly accurately when and where a person is going to buy, and hit them with the right message. SEO and PPC campaigns are perfect examples of this.

    Face-to-face communication is the “gold standard” of interactivity, and we are a long way from having that replaced. Until then, I think we can make the Internet fairly interactive. Social networks are one way to help that. They may not be the direct link from marketing to purchase, but they can help brand awareness, word of mouth, and all those other good things that will ultimately help.

    ~Graham

  4. Alas, it’s too late, the interaction has begun.

  5. You and I are web geeks. We spend way more time than we should looking at computer screens. We are not normal. Especially you.

    Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

    The only reason that I think my business model works is because it’s *all* about relationships. It’s the only way to go these days, because that’s all that’s left. Organic, natural relationships are what works. Period.

    I really can’t disagree with you, even though I’d like to. Maybe something will come up in the comments and I’ll play devil’s advocate.

  6. Not sure what you are trying to accomplish here with this post except for baiting people to start a debate.

    Didn’t you just prove your point wrong, as I comment on your post? Or did you intend this post as the attack method marketing approach to sell your book?

    That being said, I’ll bite…

    I feel the Internet is more interactive in the fact that it allows you to start a conversation with the conversations of others in a more timely and inexpensive manner. Other than that, you are correct, it’s no different than TV or direct mail.

    I would also argue that much of the conversations you don’t see are the deluge of email conversations that take place because of what is written on the web.

    Obviously not everyone is a buyer…are you saying that more interactivity is suppose to equal instant conversions?

    If you are looking for instant marketing gratification then the Internet is only partially effective and only in some cases. Social media (or the Internet in general) is only another spoke in the wheel of marketing.

    It is definitly not the marketing messiah. But when used as a testing tool to make the other marketing medium messages better, it works great.

  7. Shawn,

    I don’t sell my book. I give it away.

    BH

  8. I came here from the twitter post re: cranky loudmouth”. I was afraid it was an expose on me!

    I think the point Bob is trying to make is that most of what is happening via social networking is a little incestuous.

    The people who comment on my blog are other bloggers. The people I tweet with are also often other bloggers.

    I don’t think the vision that the people we interact with being entry level consumers has quite been realized.

    At this point it seems more like a circle-jerk than an effective method of interacting with potential clients.

  9. Good points, but it is back to basics, no? Target market, tartget audience. Seems to work well for certain demographics- witness MySpace and Facebook.

    Socializing is the norm for 20 somethings. Are they not a purchasing demographic?

  10. I market to people in RL, then stay in touch through social media. From twitter, to my mobile phone.

  11. I loved this article! The ideas you’ve preseneted are so easy to forget, especially since we are all so wrapped up in this crazy thing they call the internet. If I ever need a wake up call to the reality of the internet and it’s lack of interactivity, I just talk to someone that doesn’t use one for a living (yes, there are still some out there!). It always puts things in perspective.

  12. What… no solution?

    You outlined a problem and left me hanging!

    What… are we supposed to “tune in next week”?

    I hate/love cliffhangers.

    Quinn

  13. Good write Bob, but not sure what you want done about the situation.

    “The methods currently in our arsenal just aren’t good enough.”

    Arsenal – n. a stock of weapons

    No wonder prey – I mean regular people – don’t like being interactive with hunters – I mean marketers?

  14. Ouch, touche…you see that’s what I get for not doing my due dilligence – I saw the book and didn’t click on it.

    Sorry if my comment came across that way…I wasn’t trying to attack you.

    I guess my point was the same as Quinn’s – your post was a little different than I am used to on Copyblogger since most posts here have a counterpoint then suggested resolution. I’m assuming you have a follow up?

  15. Bob,

    Very, very rarely am I speechless. This post was perfect. I could not agree more.

    Thanks.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  16. It’s funny, but the one form of online marketing that Bob leaves out is the most successful, and the primary focus of Copyblogger.

    Content marketing.

    It’s been working online since before anyone uttered the words social media, and it works even better in conjunction with social media thanks to virtual word of mouth.

    Content attracts people by topic. Turn them into subscribers, and you can make money from topically-related offers. Even my mother-in-law subscribes to email newsletters.

    Take Agora Financial. They send out free email content mixed with offers for premium content. They do about $200 million a year in revenue.

    That’s old school, but it’s still highly profitable content marketing. Apply the same principles with blogs/email/twitter while attracting subscribers from social media news and bookmarking sites, and you’re in business.

    I’ve done it selling legal services, financial services, real estate, health and wellness offerings, online services, software, and personal development products. And Bob, if you’re going to tell me content marketing doesn’t work, I wish you would have done so before I spent 10 years making a living this way. :-)

  17. @Bob

    Great reminder:

    “The biggest mistake any marketer can make is marketing to himself, i.e. assuming his customer is just like him. They’re not and they never will be.”

    That’s central to this “conversation.”

    @Aura Mae

    You said,

    “The people who comment on my blog are other bloggers. The people I tweet with are also often other bloggers.”

    I’ve seen so much of that in my time in the blogosphere and raised that issue with others.

    I agree with you that “most of what is happening via social networking is a little incestuous.”

    That’s not even debatable. Just take an honest look at these sites, who’s talking to whom on Twitter, who’s commenting on whose blog regularly–I think you’ll see a lot of the same names over and over.

    That’s not a completely bad thing, as there is value in networking with one’s peers and generating ideas and perhaps, overflow business from each other.

    But that’s entirely different from marketing to clients or consumers.

    Picking up the phone or crafting a creative email directly to a prospective consumer or client is still probably the highest-value way of getting actual business.

    “Conversations” about business are good, but only if they actually lead to real paying business.

  18. The catch, of course, is that marketers make their own jobs that much more difficult by thinking they have to create artificial buzz around their products or services in order to sell them.

    What the public wants is the awareness of possible solutions to their problems. They’re not trying to avoid marketers; they’re trying to avoid lies, hype and dishonesty on the road to solving their problems and getting back to their lives.

    Don’t worry about being “interactive” with your consumers / audience. Worry about being manipulative and creating an artificial persona that people will delight in exposing as a sham.

  19. Bob – I’m not sure you’ve told us anything we didn’t already know. You’re informed about your subject and you’re an engaging writer, but making observations about problems without offering your ideas for potential solutions doesn’t make for a very worthwhile article.

  20. Not sure what is more interesting, the banter or the article….hmmmm

  21. Bob, thanks for keeping your clothes on.

    Here is something I’ve noticed over the years. I think it might relate to what you’re saying. We see a lot of technology come and go. We see fads come and go. What makes something stay, instead of go? Why is it that blogs and social media are an online juggernaut ?

    I think it’s because they enable the conversation. Anything that enables the conversation tends to succeed, and anything that hinders it tends to fail. Look at all the failed attempts by old and dying industries to stifle the conversation they thought they once controlled.

    And what is at the heart of conversation? People making connections and forming relationships (and engaging in transactions) over information and ideas. People form groups of like-minded individuals, which is a hallmark of social media. People trust and prefer to do business with others who they see as like themselves. Content marketing slips in under the radar and yet it’s not deceitful. It doesn’t hinder the conversation.

  22. My career as an actress has been revived by the accessibility of the internet and by viral marketing. I do do twitter and have a myspace page – but I usually ldo that more for info than for anything else. All PR is bread on the water – you just have to think about where the ducks hang out!

  23. Very well written and quite interesting postI don’t want to say anything more because I want to keep the ‘interaction’ to the minimum.

  24. I totally agree. So, all we need to do is figure out a way to teach the average consumer web 2.0 without looking like the geeks we are.

    Right.

  25. I can’t say I agree with you except on one point…the majority of a potential marketer’s audience may not be on line like those engaged in this conversation.

    And in this post you seem to be blurring the lines between advertising (talking/screaming at you without permission) and marketing.

    Everytime we engage, educate, teach we are marketing…but more from drawing in those who choose to be drawn then by chasing after. That’s the way of this world today. And those who do it best win the prize.

    Media that is more social in nature makes this much easier and by definition media that is more social is more interactive.

    We are at the tip of the iceberg on this and I wouldn’t advocate anyone who is at the fore to change their ways. It just can prove a struggle to drag others into this more interactive world.

  26. Sadly the internet browsers provide more content interactivity — mine just shielded your ‘naked’ photo in the news feed I get by email! We’ve all made similar observations but were probably afraid to voice them for fear it was our fault! (lol) I get discouraged when I see ‘discussions’ on Blog Catalog about exchanging links and they get 200 responses in 2 minutes while attempts at real ‘conversation’ get very little. A post like yours, pathetically true, should motivate us as a ‘community’ to find ways to engage. It’s been done when advertiers combated the tv’s mute button by using text or grab your attention with a truly unique and interesting commercial (reason to stay tuned) . I’ve seen creative marketers draw you in with free fun online activities like ‘artpad.com’ and let the curious find the real website behind the candy. On the opposite side (maybe) is the savvy blog designer who add menu buttons with deceiving titles to trick you into clicking through! We can only hope for enough people to take the challenge and turn things upside down.

  27. “Simple. We all trained our eyes to ignore banners ten years ago.”
    Simply stated!- and it is no wonder why banner ads are an utter failure. In addition, a lot of web nerds using Firefox, like myself, have installed ad blocking add-ons that allow us surf the web without being constantly bombarded by flashing, blinking advertisements trying to “give away” free Xbox 360’s.

  28. Great stuff: clever and concise. Thank you for making me think.
    But the “Cranky, Skeptical Loudmouth” bit in the title buffered the blow. No need for a disclaimer in this case!

  29. Sensory engagement is one way to consider the interactivity Bob describes. For example:

    – In Person Interaction: Sight, sound, smell, touch. (Taste is perhaps the x-factor.)
    – Direct Mail: Sight and touch (With smell and sound available.)
    – Radio: Sound only.
    – Television: Sound and sight. Some touch via remote control.
    – The Internet: Sound and sight, with smell and taste wholly unavailable. Some “touch” via the mouse.

    Thoughts about this impact this may be having on internet marketing efficacy?

    Best,
    Mark

  30. Well, it’s just nice to know that everything isn’t changing all at once.

  31. No, especially YOU. You’re so right though. I never have yet clicked on an ad myself. Throw away junk mail without opening for the same reason.

  32. Bravo, Brian! Content matters.

  33. Hmm. Seems the problem is not interactivity, but difficulty marketing to those interacting.

    The internet has plenty of interactivity between small niches of like-minded people. Can you effectively market a product or idea to those people? Maybe not, because they’re interested in their own content and their own conversation. It’s why I like the internet more than other communication mediums. I choose the content I consume, and the people I interact with.

    Just because you can’t figure out a way to market to those audiences doesn’t mean they’re not interacting. It just means that maybe they don’t want to interact with someone trying to sell or pitch something to them, instead of honestly contributing to their conversation.

  34. Kevin Foley :

    I disagree. I wish I had a way to interactively let you know… Sorry I know that was a bad joke, but I couldn’t resist.

    I agree that interactivity alone does not make a successful campaign. However, if you combine interactivity with quality branding, content and effective advertising you will most likely come out on top. We need to stop thinking of the internet as a new product and rather as a new medium.

  35. OK Brian, I am sold! :-)

    But tell me more about ‘content interactivity’

    Ps:
    Don’t you think WebTwo is still in it’s infancy?

  36. Great post and very true. Not only have we trained ourselves to ignore banners, we’ve installed popup blockers, and perhaps most devastating, our attention spans are growing ever shorter..we read a blurb and then click over to another site, then another…

    Online marketers have the same problem as those in print and television. How to you catch their eye and get them to buy? I don’t think that problem has ever been completely solved. You just keep trying. I do believe that in the case of online marketing, quality content really makes a difference. Forget the flash, just give the customer what they really want and need to know to make that decision to buy.

    Sue
    Tieroneads.com

  37. Hi Bob

    Fun post, but I think ultimately flawed.

    You seem to be confusing marketing with advertising by saying there are only 3 types (search, display, social). If I build any website on the web, whether an attempt at a community (your definition of “social”), a blog, a brochure site, a gallery of pictures or whatever, am I not “marketing”? It might be hard-sell or it might just be the personal blog of the CEO, but it’s a touch-point.

    And display advertising… no-one clicks, therefore it don’t work? You don’t click a billboard you pass in the street either, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t get something from it.

  38. Hi Marc,

    I agree that display ads are very much like billboards — not at all interactive. That’s the point of my blog.

  39. Good for you. The number of ‘harnessing the marketing power of social networks’ articles I read last year. Not one could say how. As for banner ads, well actually, there are some that attract my attention these days. But you’re right about the marketing to ourselves problem. We all love passing around this viral or that link. But are they shifting product? I saw a Vodafone web page streaker the other day. Funny for 2 seconds but it did nothing to stop me signing another 18 month contract with my current network.

  40. Seems to me that there is a lot of interactivity on this post, but it is not interacting with each other.

    We make posts, and then comments on the article, but are we interacting with each other, or the site, or the article? I think that once we find ways of actively interacting with each other and the site and articles become the means to do it the internet will have its next big explosion.

  41. Internet marketing may best be described as regular old advertising. It may not be interactive like everyone is claiming it is.

    But it is most definitely effective. So effective even, that I often go looking for advertisements.

    Let me shoot you an example:

    I use gmail – a lot. The little RSS type ads that scroll directly across the inbox always seem to know what is in my inbox (I’m guessing Google spiders it) and so it always returns relevant ads. I actually look at that little bar every few minutes when checking my email or emailing somebody else because it often returns ads that interest me and that I want to click on!

    It may not be interactive, but it sure is effective.

  42. I don’t know that I’ve “trained my eyes” to ignore ads; I think my mind tries to keep me focused on the task at hand. If the text I’m reading is on the center of the page, I don’t see anything to the left or right until I’m done reading. If I have other things to do, I don’t usually see anything else on the page at all (unless the other things are dishes and laundry – exploring ads trumps those every time).

    By the same token (but I’m not a geek), if I’m focused on sniping the guy on the next tier, I don’t see the guy coming from the left until my corpse is falling and the screen is telling me “Thatguy beat you down.” Maybe display ads and banners will get a second life when today’s 12 year olds become the average consumer. For now, I’m with James (and Brian by extension); it’s all about relationships. If I like you and feel that we relate on some level, I’ll keep coming back even if you blow the content angle from time to time. Admittedly, I’ll groan and shake my head, but you’re a “friend” so you get a pass.

    BTW, the picture on this post ended up on TV this morning. The photo reminded me of a local morning show host, so being the not-a-geek that I am, I fired off an email to the show. The hosts brought up my email at the beginning of the show (even displayed my message full-screen in which I said that I saw the image on the Copyblogger blog). By the end of the show, they’d had their “people” looking up other images (namely Magneto and Sauron) that they “looked like” the host.

    This post is long. I am sorry.

  43. I like post.

    Okay, I was trying to say something so absolutely irreducible minimum in the hopes I wouldn’t be accused of interacting. But that ship sailed with this paragraph.

    Loudmouth and cranky? I didn’t quite see that coming across, so I went over to Bob’s site to see if there was anything over there that fit that description. Ended up getting his free book and signing up for his newsletter. And subscribed to his site.

    Aha! Bob interacted with Copyblogger which allowed him to speak to Copyblogger’s readers and now he has a new subscriber.

    What does that mean? That there are many levels to interactivity?

    I theenk so.

  44. All I have to say is that was probably the most gripping title I’ve seen in a long time! The article itself was just as compelling. Great post.

  45. The Ad Contrarian, interesting, as always… the best of his post is that he’s quite likely right.

  46. I have been saying what you said in this post for quite some time. The attacks have been relentless. But you are 100% right.

    I observe how my wife, a non-tech geek, use the internet. If it is not on Ebay then she doesn’t even know, or realize that it exists. I think she is more like the average web user than I am. Actually I’m convinced of it.

    The only talking that works with consumers is price. That is why Wal-Mart works. Not a single penny is spent at Wal-Mart because that company has an ongoing web based conversation going with its customers.

    Some of what is being said about social media being the new marketing…is of such bs content that it is funny.

    Step out of the forest so you can see the trees.

    Great Post

    Live From Las Vegas
    The Masked Millionaire

  47. Good challenging post. I’d suggest that the problem is not that people don’t want to interact, it’s that marketers trained in “shouting” as you say are rarely willing to do the kind of 180 that true “social media marketing” requires.

    ~Jim

    P.S. It’s NOT “social marketing”, that’s a decades old discipline involving marketing around social issues, like AIDS awareness, or anti-smoking… Lots of literature and theory and books on social marketing, so we can’t use that term.

  48. Content attracts people by topic. Turn them into subscribers, and you can make money from topically-related offers. Even my mother-in-law subscribes to email newsletters.

    Brian, I love this quote and it really is that simple. Give people content they enjoy, and then up-sell them on something you already know they love. Sure, it takes time to makes sales, but this process will always work, no matter what type of new social- whatsitcalled comes out next.

    Don’t confuse the medium with the message. Just b/c you’ve got (xyz software) or some new plug-in doesn’t mean your content is golden.

    Thanks for the reminder.
    Lawton Chiles

  49. Sure, social media is interactive. But a lot of it sure ain’t social.

  50. Jon Vandergrift :

    Or is the issue really that the modern consumer is remarkably disaffected from constant bombardment from marketers and suffers from a terribly short attention *click*

  51. The most fatal mistake a marketer can make is to assume that everyone isn’t the same.

    See, the internet is a wonderful place where there are little niches filled with the passionate fans. Those people are the people who listen to things relevant. Those are the people willing to listen or hold a conversation.

    To assume that the internet is anything like television or newspapers is ridiculous. The internet is technology that gives us so much more targeting than ever possible.

    If you’re selling ads to blast out any which way, you will fail. Like you said, we learned to block out ads a decade ago.

    When one subscribes to a blog with 10,000 other readers, and that blogger mentions some service– sure as hell all 10,000 heard him. That has a higher adoption rate.

    Interactive marketing is less advertising and more PR. It’s about influencing. It’s about being part of something.

    It’s not fishing. It’s not hunting.

    It’s farming. In a co-op.

  52. Also, why are people thinking marketing has to stay within the masses?

    Not every company should have the same marketing plan. Otherwise, we’d all be out of jobs.

    Wal-mart shouldn’t be on the internet in a social way because it’s customers aren’t. Apple should because it’s customers are.

    To say we’re not average is ridiculous. Average is dull. Even the “average” have special interests and ways to communicate to them. It’s called efficient and targeted marketing.

  53. … [the web] is mostly another passive medium. And it’s getting passiver.

    Basically your saying the web has less two way communication than it did 10 years ago. I guess so… today the general public can’t write comments on websites. There is not a single place to start your own website or blog and express your views. The number of websites today are limited to three or four large media companies that only express there view. ..Come on, really? The web is allowing more two way communication. Just because everyone isn’t clicking on adds and buying worthless things doesn’t mean we aren’t interactive. It really means that smarter (more intelligent) people are using the web and internet in general.

  54. Marketing to ourselves–

    Remember the infamous quote from the ’84 presidential election?

    “I can’t believe Reagan won! Nobody I know voted for him!”

    Marketing to ourselves….marketing to ourselves.

  55. It’s a little late for a follow-up, but what the hell.

    A very interesting article appeared in The New York Times yesterday. It reported on a study by the Yankelovich people that revealed, among other things, that consumers were more likely to have a “conversation” with their peers about traditional advertising than about digital advertising. Or as The Times put it…

    …”ads that made an impression in traditional media were more likely to stimulate word of mouth than ads that made an impression in digital media…”

    This totally discredits the social media/conversationalist hypothesis that people reached by online social media have more value to marketers because of their proclivity to have conversations with other consumers. In fact, they have fewer conversations and are, therefore, less valuable.

  56. Actually, @66 Bob, all that really says is online ads don’t get talked about. Not marketing online.

    The crux of the argument online social marketing works isn’t that the ads get chatted about at the watercooler. That’s advertising, not marketing (then we don’t even want to get into virality advertising).

    The argument is that enganging consumers in a community has more bang for the buck in loyalty and longevity than traditional media marketing and advertising.

    It’s advertising without advertising. Is it harder to say no to a billboard or your neighbor?

  57. Huh?

    That’s my point. According to Yankelovich, consumers reached by traditional media are more likely to have a conversation than those reached by online media.

    In other words, more likely to talk to a neighbor.

  58. But again, we’re talking about advertising. But the goal of social marketing is to avoid advertising like the plague.

    Case in point: Twitter. I’m on twitter for my company. I was on there for two days before I amassed a ton of followers. They followed me because I was talking to our user base and those folks started talking to other folks and others and others and others.

    That’s the social marketing. Not a banner ad or flash ad. But blogs, twitter, buzz, community events.

  59. Troy,

    First, your hung up on semantics. The Yankelovich study includes all forms of online marketing, including …”e-mail messages, Internet banner ads, social networking Web sites, video games and video-sharing Web sites like YouTube.”

    Second, boy, are you talking to the wrong guy about Twitter. I suggest you don’t visit my blog today.

  60. Sorry about misspelling on “you’re.” I’m running around frantic.

  61. Bob,

    Sometimes, all we have are our words. So when I see “ad” I think “ad.”

    You didn’t link to the article, so the quote was all I had to go off of.

    Secondly, I’m with you on Twitter. Unfortunatly, with nearly 15MM sign ups (maybe not people) and my line of work– they’re my audience. They’re the community I am trying to be apart of for the business.

    Personally, I dislike Twitter. That’s way too much information on people, friends or not. So you have my RSS subscription now.

    Also, don’t worry about the “you’re.” It happens. I wish these comments could be editable. The brain moves fast.

  62. Hi Bob,

    I find this report a little suspect. First, as you pointed out in your comment today, digital media does not generate the same discussions as traditional. But as the report points out, most people surf the ‘Net alone (though of course they may watch TV together, or drive by billboards together, thus making discussion more likely to happen).

    However, I wonder how many people remember “seeing something about that on the Internet” somewhere in the future, but don’t report it as a “conversation”?

    The report also points out that people on the Internet are busy looking for something, and find ads “annoying”. I submit that those are the ads that have nothing to do with what they are looking for. The ad that does lead them to the Golden Widget, they don’t consider as an “ad” but a useful piece of information.

    Lastly, we all know that banner ads suck on the web. I agree there is banner blindness. But in this case marketing is different than advertising — sites that engage the visitor and offer exactly the type of information they are looking for are less likely to be considered “advertising” by the reader, even though that is exactly what they are.

    Traditional media is different than digital media — no doubt about it. And all the numbers seem to show direct mail as the “go-to” advertising medium to this day. But I think that digital marketing will have its place. We just don’t know all the nuances yet.

    ~Graham

  63. Graham:

    Like you, I find all reports suspect. And, yes, there are marketing methodologies on the web that a consumer might not recognize as “advertising.”

    Nonetheless, I think this report gives us plenty to think about — particularly about the theory (I’m tempted to call it a religion) of online “conversation.”

    I think your analysis is dead on — we simply haven’t figured out yet how to make digital marketing more efficient. And it’s my position that until we do, we should be a little more modest in our claims.

  64. Very well written and quite interesting postI don’t want to say anything more because I want to keep the ‘interaction’ to the minimum.

  65. All I have to say is that was probably the most gripping title I’ve seen in a long time! The article itself was just as compelling. Great post.

  66. The Ad Contrarian, interesting, as always… the best of his post is that he’s quite likely right.

  67. I market to people in RL, then stay in touch through social media. From twitter, to my mobile phone.

  68. Hi Bob. Fun article—I admit I’m a sucker for skepticism.

    Here’s why I think good online marketing is much more active than passive:

    Say you’re a young woman who’s going to get married in six months, and you need to do all the planning for the big event. You need to buy a dress, you need to find a caterer, you need to send out invitations, and there’s a whole bunch of other stuff you need that you don’t even know about yet. So where do you go? To The Knot, where you connect with a thousand other young women who you’ve never met before to exchange advice, tips and share your opinion about the million different products and services you need to make your special day perfect. If I’m selling any one of those products, that’s a place I want to be, and that’s a conversation I want to be a part of.

    That’s one of a million of conversations happening online built around a specific set of emotional needs. When you’ve engaged in one of those conversations, then you’re qualified to offer your assistance in satisfying those needs. (Maybe even get paid for it.)

    You mentioned search, display and social marketing as the three major methods of online marketing, but in my experience, those are only enablers of the most important form of online marketing: relationship building through permission-based marketing. Large advertisers do the first part in spades, and with big budgets. But they’re usually lousy at the relationship-building part, because their marketing programs are still dominated by big traditional agencies who only know how to interrupt people, not converse with them.

    Smaller advertisers, and niche companies understand how to build relationships online, because their survival depends on it. In fact many of them skip the Display, paid search and social media, and spend most of their time on the relationship piece. How do they do it? They convey their passion for what they do, and they share it freely along with advice, articles, a forum for other passionate people to exchange views, a free software tool, or an online seminar (Copyblogger is a great example). After all that, where else would you go when you want to pay for all that expertise?

    That’s not what I call passivity. That’s the kind of engagement traditional interruption marketers can only lust after. So put that in your pipe and smoke it! ;)

    P.S. Say hi to Sharon for me.

  69. Accurate observation!
    That’s why we set-up a rewards and bonuses for paying attention to us.
    Some have created streaming reward systems,whereby you have to answer poignant questions to receive the reward.

    I recommend Free Porn half-screen and silent streaming advertising on the other half of the screen, or vice-versa, lol.

    Hey Sex Sells!
    Peace out,
    Stephen
    http://internetmarketingresearch.org/wordpress

  70. All I have to say is that was probably the most gripping title I’ve seen in a long time! I market to people in RL, then stay in touch through social media. From twitter, to my mobile phone.