Recently, we came upon an article in Entrepreneur Magazine titled, “In the Social Age, Don’t Advertise, Engage.” Now, to be fair, this kind of advice is nothing new. Ever since the “social media revolution” began, social media evangelists have been advising companies to chuck all traditional media because now we are in an era of relationships. This type of advice showcases the exact kind of absenteeism of nuanced thinking that sparked this series in the first place. The assumption is that companies can’t do two different kinds of things simultaneously. If you are using social media marketing tactics you can’t be doing traditional marketing tactics, and the opposite (of course) also holds true.
We thought we would take a few points out of the Entrepreneur article and offer some alternative explanations. So, here we go.
“And what people don’t want to see is advertising, spam and blatant marketing.”
Despite apparent rumors to the contrary, “advertising” is not synonymous with “spam.” We aren’t really sure what “blatant marketing” is. It must be that thing where you adopt the stance of a salesperson in order to try to grow your business.
We see a handful of reader studies from publications in which our clients advertise over the course of the year. These studies would not be possible if readers of the magazine did not take the time to fill out the survey and ponder the ads that they had seen in that ad study issue. Moreover, if people were so direly opposed to advertising, those publications would not exist anymore because everyone would be refusing to read them.
If advertisers use the appropriate context and put real effort into making an ad compelling for the reader, everyone can benefit. The reader may learn about a potentially helpful product and the company may get a new customer. While spam certainly exists and certainly is a turn-off, advertising, as in an advertising campaign, is not remotely the same thing.
“The difference can be summed up like this: Advertising is designed to benefit the advertiser. Engagement is designed to benefit the consumer.”
Again, lack of nuanced thinking alert. First, let us consider that many companies are learning how to use advertisements to benefit the reader. In fact, David Ogilvy, copywriter and marketing guru, perpetually waxed poetic on the potential of advertising to reveal to a magazine reader a solution to a problem they did not even know they had. Also, the sad fact is that many companies actually take a more spammy approach to social media than they do in their traditional marketing. For example, we have seen many companies tweet out press releases. Yuck. The bottom line is that any kind of marketing is really about the consumer. If the consumer does not find the message compelling your company will probably not earn their loyalty. In any medium.
“It’s just that the content you create should be designed to meet their needs — not yours. If you want to advertise around that content, go ahead. After all, it’s the community you have created.”
This is where the “this or that” methodology of advice can get a little dicey. The article at this point is talking about how companies need to create valuable online resources that revolve completely around the customer. Fine. We agree. Then it is noted that if you want to advertise around that content, “go ahead.” The fact is that this is exactly the rationale behind traditional advertising, especially in print. The real difference is that in a magazine the content is relevant to but not created by your company. Your advertisement is appearing in a context where it makes sense, and if you do your job correctly the ad will build on something a reader just saw in the magazine’s editorial.
Social Media, we must reiterate, is a new form of communicating, but it did not change what marketing truly is at its core. Marketing has always been a way to convince people that they should buy what your company is selling. That’s all. One of the best ways to convince a person of anything is to really relate to them…engage with them as the parlance of our times would have us say. No matter what tactic you are investing in, this is the simple, black-and-white truth. No one wants to see a “buy now” starburst anywhere, print or online. Information with the intent to sell people are used to in print and online, and if it’s done well everybody can win.
Don’t think that print advertising and social media marketing (or content marketing) are mutually exclusive. They are merely two different paths to the same objective…if done right.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/goldberg/5058617162/ via Creative Commons
Bad Advice Time: Don’t Advertise, Engage