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The Ad Industry’s Social Media Fail

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It has been a long time since I’ve flexed my social media-specific skills here. However, I’m going to start strong, yes, even stronger than the title: social media is the most disrespected channel by the advertising industry at scale.

Who in the blue hell do I think I am?

Granted, I haven’t written about social in a while, but allow me to re-introduce myself… I've been instrumental in launching social media departments at agencies, being nominated for and winning awards for social campaigns for which I contributed strategy, and numerous times have brought social to real-time in real life. Simply put, I dooz this.

Furthermore, I’ve already begun having this conversation with those in the industry who get it which is a big part of what brings me to put pen to paper (or in this case, type to screen) today. In this regard, I’d like to speak to three factors to help me prove my point. 

Brand Fear

Oft times when I speak or present, I end up having conversations about a brand’s or client’s fear. Fear of doing wrong. Fear of not doing enough. Even fear of missing out. Nevertheless, letting fear dictate what our business does is an activity guaranteed to stop your brand from being its absolute best. Is your fear of “being dragged” larger than your fear of making the most money possible?

Think about all of the Fortune 100 brands… they didn’t start at the top. They took risks. Think about the risk it takes to start a business from zero. Recently, there was an article on Inc.com titled, If You Say Yes to Any of These 5 Questions, Science Says You Definitely Make Smarter Decisions Than Average and the first point is about those who focus more on potential gains than losses. So, in the immortal words of Lloyd Lindsay Young, “SCIENCE!”

How We “Use” the Channels

This one is a big one for me. I was at a large, very smart, and red ad agency at the onset of what we now know as *cue ominous music and reverb* paid social. That means that I understand the necessity for levels of balance between social content and finding the best ways for it to be seen.

What does grind my gears though, is when I see agencies and brands call paid social only social or when agencies try to mask their social expertise in what ends up as a pure media play. No matter how many times you try to fight it (or how many times I have to say it), the most noteworthy word of the two notable words that make up the term social media is social. You will never convince me otherwise. I could go on with all of the details on how to do that, but that information is placed safely behind my own paywall. I mean can a person get paid for their knowledge? 

Who “owns” social media?

In the mid-2010s, one of the most pressing questions in our industry was who owns social--marketing or pr? In this year of 2019, one of the most pressing questions in our industry has been who owns social--marketing or pr? At the rate we’re going, one of the most pressing questions in our industry will be who owns social--marketing or pr? But fear not folks (remember what I said about fear earlier?), I have the answer for now and beyond. The ownership of social media belongs to everyone.

Yes, everyone. Marketing owns social. PR owns social. The community owns social. Everyone owns social. BECAUSE IT’S SOCIAL. The approach to social media that is most successful in businesses is one that is collaborative because the most successful brands super-serve their constituencies. The most successful brands understand the part the consumer plays in their business, the culture they bring to the brand or invite the brand into, the money the funnel into the business, the referrals they give to the business, etc.

The most successful brands do not fall into the audience to which this post is addressed, because the most successful brands are in the minority in this industry. The good news though is that the rest of the brands have something for which the can aspire or from which they can gain inspiration. And here, at the cusp of Advertising Week New York 2019, is where we can begin this conversation all over again, in real-time, for real. 

Gary J. Nix