How Social Media Challenges Traditional Thinking

I often wonder what was the tipping point for social media? Why is it receiving more attention now than ever? It has always been there and those in the know — whether they are the tech savvy or the digital youth — saw its benefits much sooner than the rest of us.  But now it’s really gone mainstream:

  • Every radio station, newscaster, broadcast media has a Twitter account. My late night TV news station uses it as a crowd-sourcing mechanism to gauge immediate opinion on key news issues;
  • Charities/causes are popping up and its organizers are wising up to the fact that they can raise awareness and donations within hours of launching their campaign;
  • The newspaper industry is dying as consumers increasingly look online to find their news and information for free. As a result, a large scale shift in ad spend is expected in 2009 away from traditional print and broadcast to online. eMarketer verifies this transformation:

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  • Marketers have been told that this channel not only offers true measurability but it results in strong customer engagement and sustainability;

For someone like me, whose marketing roots have evolved from traditional mass to direct and database; then to online display, search and now social media –> my profound learning comes in understanding that it is a medium that continues to evolve and has yet to establish standards for marketers. I continue to hear that no one should have the right to call themselves “social media experts” and while I believe that is absolutely true, I will place my bets with those marketers and organizations who are using this medium everyday to establish their brand, and create a true understanding of their customers.  These guys practice what they preach. Other industry notables have gotten their names because they’ve seemingly held the answers to a space that was virtually untravelled by the mainstream. But I have yet to see any validation of their preachings.

Could it be that the new US President Barack Obama will be known as a key instigator in bringing this whole notion to the masses by his very acknowledgement of the pervasiveness and influence of technology and its ability to shape consumer perception and build incredible momentum?  The strength of Obama’s campaign and his revolutionary move into office are based on the ideals set by the Founding Fathers: Election for The People and By the People…. and NOT by the lobbyists or constituents who have traditionally influenced policy and government spend. He has seemingly abolished this practice and has brought on a new idealism of transparency (as per the video: White House 2.0: Social Media and Government Transparency)

As I evolve Ammo Marketing in Canada, the social media space is exciting and yet daunting. I have been able to convince some clients that traditional research does not compare to the unfiltered, unmoderated insights they will get from social media. The very research has opened clients’ eyes who become keenly aware of the honest commentary on their brands: the good..the bad…and the ugly.  This immediately creates a sense of urgency to jump into the conversation and clarify misperceptions and diffuse detractor comments.  Little by little, participation in this new media is slowly revealing its true worth: as a true engagement device that leads to a sustained dialogue and eventual impact on revenue.

One of my staff came to me today and was so excited to be in a ground-breaking and evolutionary space.  As someone who supports client initiatives by participating in relevant discussions, she is delightfully surprised by the willingness of people to embrace corporate presence and engage with them peer to peer with no strings attached. It’s amazing how much people are willing to tell you if you give them the platform to speak.  The results we’ve seen have been immediate. But be warned, it will take some time to fulfill that ROI. Effort must be consistent and committed. Consumers will become your advocates if you continue to maintain that connection and you openly respond to their concerns.

Christopher Barger, Director of Social Media, General Motors (http://twitter.com/cbarger) said it best: Look for the return on conversation…not immediately…but when it comes it will sustain itself long-term.


Redefining the US Political Campaign: Obama’s successful rise to the US Presidency

I had the distinct opportunity to attend the Rotman Lecture series to watch an insightful presentation by Rahaf Harfoush, a key member of Barack Obama’s Campaign that helped reshape the way political campaigns are run.  Ideally, the voice of the people should be represented and to garner that support means listening to their concerns, and persuading them that you will answer those concerns. The Obama Campaign took it one step further: It harnessed this support by arming people with tools to help spread the message and making them feel integral to the campaign.  This provided incredible individual empowerment that caused an explosion of smaller campaigns that fueled the Obama fire. The Campaign unleashed its brand to the masses and the public embraced it and made it stronger.   A great example of this is the Yes We Can Video by Little Will.i.am, an initiative developed by supporters who took Obama’s message, made it their own, and spread the word. It became synonomous with the Campaign and eventually amassed over 14.5 MM views.

For the first time, as far as I know, the financial support for this Campaign truly was bourne out the masses. Traditional political support from constituents  ie the rich, corporate and organized interest groups have strongly influenced and directed the decisions and policies of past presidents.  Could this be the one time that Abraham Lincoln’s view of true government has come to fruition?  “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”  I urge you to view this presentation and share it. I think it’s a great model, not only for modern politics, but for modern business.

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