Why Marketers Must Think in Verbs or Face Increasing Irrelevance

Social Actions (i.e. Like, Share, Tweet) Have Become the New Norm, So Embrace Them

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Advertisers trade in adjectives and adverbs. Campaigns and creative executions are filled with them. However, with all content increasingly filtered through social networks, it's what people do with advertising rather than what they say about it that will make all the difference this year. Guaranteed.

The change started last September when Facebook revealed that the ubiquitous "like" and "share" features will soon be joined by all kinds of verbs. Two of these -- "read" and "listen" -- are already live. Others are coming soon. "Buy" and "watched" are likely to be two.

Facebook users who install certain news and music applications such as Spotify and The Washington Post social news reader can opt to share their actions. In other words, read news or listen to music on the social network and it gets broadcast to friends friction-free.

The arithmetic, therefore, is simple. The more marketers can evoke social actions, the more likely it is that their wonderfully crafted narrative will stick to people's screens.

Is your branding easy to actually act upon?
Is your branding easy to actually act upon?
The empirical evidence is already there. 

Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow estimates that sites that simply add an optional Facebook share capability to common online applications, such as an online poll, can increase traffic 12.98%. (Yes, he's done the math.) 

Media early adopters have already seen strong results from their embrace of verbs. The Guardian has garnered 1 million additional monthly page views since it launched a revamped Facebook presence last fall. Yahoo is so pleased with its early results that it has expanded its relationship with Facebook to 26 more sites. The social network is already deeply embedded into Yahoo News.

It's not just Facebook though. Technology companies have long understood that pointing and grunting are arguably the most innate human gestures. It's something children do at a very early age. Cavemen basically invented both. So they're building these natural interfaces at the core.

Siri on the iPhone and Kinect on Xbox (an Edelman client) are two early implementations: users talk or point. But soon similar gesture-based media will show up everywhere. These will drive a lot more frictionless sharing. The social networks and search engines will gobble up the data and use these signals to shape the algorithms that already guide so much of what we pay attention to.

Here are three strategies to consider.

Build verb hooks everywhere
You wouldn't think that people want to share that they completed an online poll or registered to enter a contest, but data prove the contrary. A small percentage will, and this generates a network effect that pays off big. Look for ways to attach social verbs to even basic online features.

Here's why this matters to marketers: If they adopt the verb structure and API's into their assets, they are more likely to surface through Facebook's algorithms. For example, Ford should consider adopting the "watch" API for any video content on its site.

Consider the lens of friends
Content finds us though the lens of our friends. This means no two people see the same web. It's all personalized. Execs need to think hard about their audiences and pay particular attention to psychographics. This can help guide decisions about the language and creative that will generate verbs, not just awareness.

Prioritize media that think in verbs
When making a media buy, look for partners that get the power of natural gestures and have started to build it into their armada. Insist that they add social functionality to even basic banner ads and rich-media executions.

Your mission this year is not just to be heard but to inspire action. Tapping into the network effects of verbs is a must in a social digital age.

Steve Rubel is exec VP-global strategy and insights for Edelman.

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