Counterpoint: Putting 'Media' Back Into Social Media

Let's Rethink Our Priorities

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Ian Schafer
Ian Schafer
My fellow DigitalNext contributor (and fine fellow whom I greatly respect and admire), Josh Bernoff, recently posted about the baggage that comes along with the word "media" when talking about "social media." He states:

"If you're going to participate in a big social site (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube), call it a "social-network site" (or just a "social network," for short). And you're often better off with a channel or a profile or an identity than an ad in such an environment."

That certainly holds true when developing long-term "social media" strategies for building and sustaining relationships with your customers (and yet-to-be customers), which I certainly hope you are doing. But it does not do justice to what we, as advertisers -- not just marketers -- must task ourselves when it comes to understanding this new era of shared experiences.

Josh closes his post with a point of "... no matter what you do, the sooner you stop thinking of the social web as media, the better off you are."

I strongly disagree. We need to think about it both ways. Allow me to explain.

The first era of advertising was all about brands telling stories to consumers. It was a one-way dialogue that was all about positioning. In this new era, we aren't just storytellers, we are arbiters of "fan fiction". We are providing consumers with a platform to share experiences, provide input and create content -- both actively and passively -- that dictate what our brands are. And media can and should play a strong role in reaching those consumers wherever they may be. The odds are that they are spending tons of time within the world of the social web. And although the choices may not be obvious of how to reach them, they certainly are plentiful. We just need to get creative with how we use them.

Yes. We need to get creative about media.

Putting the "media" back into "social media" allows us to reconfigure our priorities from merely reaching consumers with a message to providing them with enough value to augment that message's quality. By rethinking our media planning and buying strategies, we can make initial impressions work hard to engage the consumer, while the secondary, organic impressions work even harder to create more organic engagements. And when we become comfortable with our paid media generating organic media, we will then realize that the social web is not the enemy, but the best friend we could possibly ever have. We will give ourselves the gift of more efficient media plans and less expensive effective-CPMs. Impressions begetting even more valuable impressions -- it's a wonderful thing. You just have to measure it. And you have to free yourself from the confines of standard ad units and not just buy what people are selling you.

It doesn't scale gracefully in the current media buying model, but change for the better doesn't always happen gracefully.

Impressions aren't the end-all, be-all of advertising. But when we look at mentions, sentiment and positive buzz as leading indicators of a successful strategy, that is something that paid media, in support of engaging experiences (or as the engaging experiences themselves) can deliver efficiently. Building a community, even the greatest one in the world, should get some support and love from efficient, effective, targeted media. Believe me. They work very well together.

I do agree with Josh that the term "social media" sucks. But it's the definition of the term "media" that should evolve, because everything is social now, whether media companies like it or not. Media is now blanket-defined as content. And content needs to be found to be consumed. The sooner we think about our ads as two-way communications and relationships as content that is jointly created, the more proud of them we'll be -- and the more financial support they will receive from their respective organizations.

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Ian Schafer is CEO of Deep Focus. Follow him at or

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