Say the word “advertising” at a cocktail party and most people will immediately engage in a conversation about their favorite television spots. To be part of this conversation used to be the holy grail of advertising.
Then came the search engine, and along with it came a new holy grail – the top spot in a list of search results.
While the whole world was clamoring for Google’s coveted No. 1, unsponsored search result listing, Facebook and Twitter began not-so-quietly supplanting Google as the central nervous system of the World Wide Web. These 2 social media juggernauts gave rise to an engagement era during which the once lauded “impression” began to fall out of favor as a legitimate measure of a return on marketing investment. As a result, yet another era in marketing arose, and we’re smack dab in the middle of it at this very moment in time.
Welcome to the sharing era – an era in which a company’s brand awareness and advertising messages have fallen, quite literally, into the hands of the market.
Prior to the existence of social platforms, advertisers invested the majority of their budgets buying awareness and pushing messages out into the world through traditional media channels. This was how brand awareness was achieved. But here in the sharing era, achieving brand awareness requires a vastly different approach that need not include optimizing the company website for search.
A recent article by Adrants contributor Andy Havard dissuades marketers from practicing search engine optimization while encouraging focus on building brand awareness. In the first part of the article, Havard does an excellent job of articulating the pitfalls of playing the SEO game, like holding the top spot once you get there, keeping up with ever-changing algorithms and the simple fact that gunning for Google results can gobble up oodles of precious time and money – time and money that could be better invested in building brand awareness.
“If you really are determined to undertake an SEO campaign alongside your brand building, then this next point is your essential takeaway. What you will notice is that through building a strong brand awareness campaign, your website will enjoy more traffic, your social networks will grow, your blog posts will gain more interaction and your universal popularity will increase,” writes Havard.
Which leaves us with the question, “How exactly does one go about the business of brand building in this new era of advertising?”
The short answer is to create shareable, collectible content.
In a recent article in Ad Age, authors Doug Levy and Bob Garfield point out that, “Social media have taken the stolid, dependable old tortoise – word-of-mouth – and transformed it into countless hares, multiplying like, well, hares.”
The same article compares Google search results for the phrases “I love Apple” (3.2 million results) and “I love Dow Chemical” (3 results).
These days, people share loads of information about themselves, from how much they love their favorite brands to the glorious meal they just had to the new pair of shoes they just got and so on.
In other words, social media is word-of-mouth, which has and always will be the most potent influence on consumer behavior. Thus, the best communication channel available in this new era is people. No other channel is capable of distributing ideas and content more efficiently and with more relevance than human beings that are part of a network with a shared sense of purpose and interests. And while it’s important to embrace the fact that they now control the message, it is also critical to arm them with information and experiences they are able to share and want to share with the rest of the world.
Take, for example, a few newcomers to the social scene – Pinterest, Polyvore, Snip.it, Quora, Fab.com and Storify. All of these platforms allow users to curate searchable and shareable content.
So there’s the old question, “What can we say in our advertising that sets us apart from our competition?” And there’s the new question, “What kind of content can we create that people will want to collect and share with others?”
To decide which one you’d rather have as a basis for your next campaign strategy, consider which would you rather have, 1,000 people talking about your TV spot around the dinner table, or 1,000 people sharing things they adore about you with everyone they know online.
Before you answer that, go type in “I love advertising” and see how many results you get. (Hint: It’s somewhere between 3 and 3.2 million.)
Shareable, collectible content is the next Holy Grail in advertising.