The Ice Age Cometh

February 15

Last week, TMP attended the Massachusetts Hospital Association's Conference on Social Networking. The 140 attendees included representatives from HR, Advertising, Marketing and PR. This question came up:"With all the focus on user-generated content and open dialogue, is traditional advertising going the way of the dinosaur?"

Actually, the exact opposite holds true. Social media really enhances some of the more traditional media — it doesn't replace. But the key here is integration: integration of social tools into your communications strategy AND integration among all the groups communicating on behalf of your organization. Done correctly, this builds a stronger connection with your brand and with your company as a whole.

Truth in Advertising?

Some concern stems from the fact that 90% of consumers surveyed trust friends and virtual strangers before they trust advertisers. This shouldn't be a surprise. That car commercial may be intriguing, but "in the olden days," you still did your homework before you ran out and bought it. Which of your friends owned that model? Did it really get 35 mpg? How comfortable was that 3rd seat? In other words, you validated the advertising messages that were important to you. With social media, validating anything and everything has increased exponentially. People aren't deaf to traditional advertising and marketing messages, they just want to know they can believe the message. So the point is, make sure your advertising is grounded in reality and can be backed up with real proof.

Start by listening to your audience.

Market research and brand strategy are critical to your advertising efforts. Have you listened to them? And better yet, have you acted on what you heard? Get to know your audience, their expectations and perceptions of your company. You'll develop much better — and much more believable — advertising.

And that's what social media does — it gives people a reason to believe; a reason to trust the message you're putting out in the market. If you've done the research and crafted the right message, why not make it easy for your audience to verify? Why not link them directly to your company Facebook profile, or your Twitter feed? Give them a place not only to hold the conversation, but for you to be part of the conversation. Just check out Verizon Wireless Careers' Facebook page: with nearly 13,000 fans commenting, asking questions and engaging with the brand, Verizon Wireless has created their own "brand evangelists" who share their stories and give others a reason to believe.

"If you don't like what is being said, then change the conversation."

That quote from our favorite Madman Don Draper pretty much sums it up. If you're not even in the conversation, how can you expect to change it? If your advertising initiatives are separate from your social media initiatives which are separate from your employment initiatives...well, you get the point. It's critical to get them all on the same page and moving towards the same goal. Social media facilitates millions of conversations: about you, about working for you, about your brand, about experiences with your brand. Use it to create dialogue, to build communities, to share experiences. And of course use it to foster trust in all your communication efforts. Advertising is evolving — not disappearing — so make sure you're not lost in the Ice Age.

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