Why advertising should be part of your Social Media Strategy

There’s something annoying when it comes to current digital and social media strategies; the creative process often does not integrate some considerations on how an idea will be diffused and reach enough users. It’s been good to get rid of the 4P and insist more about 4 E (basically, Product becomes Experience, Place becomes Everyplace, Price becomes Exchange and Promotion becomes Evangelism) in the digital literature. RIP Jerome McCarthy.

It helped us focus on influencers’ and presumers’ analysis; it helped us dive into the roots of subcultures and their strengths, and it helped us understand that the first shareholders of a brand reputation are…the consumers themselves. In this mutual construction between citizens and companies, most marketers have lost a bit of arrogance to define some first paths to shared value.

But I think that it’s been misleading to focus too much on Evangelism and to kill Promotion overnight. Because at the end, spokepersons, brand ambassadors, are very rare people per se. More importantly: you’re most of the times temporary evangelists, as you can’t have a deep engagement level all the way long in an attention economy.

As brand experiences should be socially designed, advertising should be injected as a support activity of any digital strategy, wheras today, the “seeding” or “advertising” plan comes after the big idea.

Advertising can help in reaching some key goals of any Social Media strategy.

Advertising is a cultural topic

It can sound obvious, but advertising is no longer “just” pushing coupons, brainless reactions and/or cheap messages (has it ever been, between…?). As brands have a growing role in societies (Barclays provide bikes in London, H&M recycles clothes etc.), their inner messages is more and more about positive movement, citizenship, generating milestones with more and more responsible communities. Like it or not, ads aim to understand cultures of niche communities, to better “call to actions” people. Deying advertising would drive to an aggressive backlash against people’s interests. Advertising can link people, can commit them, can generate social decisive moments. Advertising is not only about manipulating people.

Advertising is a humble attitude to make sure interested people can get involved

Funny enough, a lot of creative people and marketers rely on “virality”. The diverse studies (MIT) tend to demonstrate that in order to make a topic / idea go organically viral, few people who are directly connected shall find an interest for this same idea at the same time.

You have 3 choices: you can try to add an hashtag #kitten; you can really trust your big self-esteem and declare that the content you produce is going to go viral anyway; or you can wonder how to make sure that potentially relevant people can be exposed to your content.

We don’t have time for everybody and everything; it’s even more true with brands: we don’t want to have time for guys who want to make us pay (see TNS Digital Life work…); advertising can be used as a compass and as a real service for people. Think about Burberry live-catwalk: they advertize before to let us know when and where the show will be broadcast, in relevant social places or media. Not to make us adhere to products, but just to notifiy us that something can matter.

Advertising should be social

Remember how proud you were as a kid when you were featured with your judo team in the local newspaper (well, at least, I was!)? Well, advertising can definitely be a way to understand and celebrate a specific community. At the end, as digital contact zones are more and more widespread in real life (in underground, in buses, through smartphones, in shops, in the bathrooms: everywhere), you can consider them as a great gallery to feature real people.

Think about Levi’s outfits towards urban cycling communities. The women cyclists are very angry against Levi’s so far, as the ads and outfits display lonely riders, mostly male. If fashion blogs and aesthetics lovers appreciated the films, and were invited to discover the outfits, I think that the brand missed a broader audience, far more relevant; it would have been far more ROI-centric for Levi’s to listen to communities, “crowdsource” them, and advertize with them instead of splitting new product development, advertising and social media activation. You can’t activate a spokeperson or an “evangelist” once the content and product are done

Media-buy is the vast majority of the budget

Finally, there’s this intense financial equation: most of the budget is dedicated to media-buy. You have the choice to close your eyes and keep rocking in the creative space, and then make fun of the supposed non-gifted media agencies. Or you can try to open your scope of work and understand how you can use this budget within your social creative process.

Think about it: in London, the buildings of the City are now bought or rented by digital companies, not bank. It’s an industry in which the pipelines can have a meaning: you should consider the fact that working for nice illusions don’t have to be just delusive.

Laurent François is MD of consultancy French Ideas.