How to Effectively Advertise in a Social Media Landscape

One of the toughest challenges for brands in our new marketplace is how to effectively communicate in a universe that is controlled by the consumer.

It amazes me that after all we've been through, evolving into a digital society and all, far too many brands, and agencies alike, try to reshape the social media landscape to be just another extension of traditional platforms.

The scenario runs a little like this:

"I've got $500k to spend on interactive advertising so now that we got our multi-million dollar TV spots are complete, lets spend that money putting those commercials on the web so people can watch our commercial on (air quotes) 'YOU TUBE.' And lets build a 'Brand Page' on 'MySpace' to get our message to all those social networking kids out there.

Oh, and about MySpace, is there any way to turn the comments off on our page? We don't want people saying undesirable things about us on our page. We'll need to turn it off for YouTube as well, and make it so people can't download the spots. We can't have people using our materials to express their opinions about us, my boss would have a heart attack!

To promote the commercials and the myspace page we'll create a banner campaign that's an 'interactive version' of our print messaging. And let's run those on topical blogs’ that consumers read. Oh, is there anyway to check the content of the blog post adjacent to the ad? We don't want our brand associated with offensive language or positive comments about our competitors..."

Brands want to make a play in social media networks, but, they want to make sure to avoid all those pesky little 'social' features, basically giving consumers the same opportunities to interact with the brand that they have reading a magazine or watching television.

Trying to control how they are perceived in an environment driven by social demand by locally silencing their customers goes against entire premiss of social communication. It's also a little like remaining convinced the war is going well by shooting anyone around you that tells you otherwise.

When what brands are saying about themselves doesn’t match up with their customers’ perception of the brand is, a communication gap is formed. After all, communicating on a social network is not the same thing as communicating socially. Brands must be open to have any conversation and be themselves while doing it. Be authentic and relevant and you’ll harness the real power of social media.

Find the customers that love your brand and want nothing more than to help you to succeed. By silencing the social voice you’re closing yourself off from important learnings about yourself from critiques and from loyal consumers that maybe your best new friends. Interact with them on their turf and do it socially.

The world has changed, and change is hard, but change can also be really good. If your brand can't live up to your branding, it's time to rethink who you really are.