There is no such thing as a non-influenced or unbiased social media platform and the audience is very much OK with this. Why are they OK? Well it’s simple - we don’t have the same expectations from branded websites or social media platforms that we have of traditional media. We know what we are getting ourselves into when we enter the domain of a brand or social media. In fact, we kind of expect to be sold to.
Traditional media on the other hand is not expected to sell a product or service unless you are consuming an advertorial, sponsorship arrangement or straight out advertising. That level of trust that we have associated with mainstream media and their journalistic qualities and ethics is well respected. We see, hear and read traditional media with a level of certainty that the information received is authentic and genuine. Those lines are starting to blur now with a lot of advertorial and sponsorship creeping its way into traditional media.
So how can brands get more involved in social?
Those working with new media in Twitter, blogging, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and many more social media platforms have an opportunity if they follow the same protocols of a traditional publisher or a broadcaster. Deliver consistently high quality content that your audience expects. Make sure that you communicate to your audience and not to your brand. Be genuine and authentic in everything you do from writing to podcasting, and keep it as original and unique as possible. Ultimately be yourself because on social media the foundations of real relationships are formed - traditional media and advertising will never get close to this.
One of the great opportunities for brands is podcasting. It allows the listener to connect and form an opinion of the program. If done well it will create a sense of belonging and community that is near impossible to do by any other means in business. A document produced by a brand will never leap out and hit you in the face with that the raw emotion that a podcast discussion can deliver. The brand can work creatively with it, successfully delivering its messages without being hindered - the canvas of opportunity is blank and without limitations.
What we are seeing now is the opportunity for brands to take greater control of their messaging. It’s time to deliver high quality information and content that doesn’t disrespect its audience and target market. It’s time to educate, inform and give out the ‘secret sauce’ as some like to say. Each time we do this we are adding value, our brand currency goes up and as a result trust is earned and dare I say it a relationship is formed.
We don’t jump onto a home builder’s website not expecting to read about their products or services. We listen to a podcast and expect to hear an opinion or different ideas. We don’t get angry at subtle brand positioning of a soft drink in a beautifully put together video. The only person we can get angry with is ourselves for clicking through in the first place if we don’t like it.
The truth is, human beings don’t mind being sold to, they just don’t like being taken for a ride or for a fool. Every piece of material that is being produced by brands serves a purpose and the audience understands that. They have actively clicked on or through to the platform to source that piece of information. Where brands need to get smart is in the delivery of content that makes their audience scream out for more from them. Keep the audience coming back.
It’s time for brands and business to embrace the platforms of social like they have never before because what we are seeing today is merely the foundation of the future. The responsibility doesn’t just rest in the agency, the marketing and advertising departments it falls on the CEOs and MDs. Start taking responsibility for your own communications and don’t let this very important time in connecting with your consumer and audience pass you by.
Nic Hayes is the managing director of Media Stable, Australia’s leading expert directory and the co-host of communications podcast Brand Newsroom.