There was a time when advertising was just that; advertising. You took a brand and you presented it in a relevant and appealing context then you poured yourself a whiskey, lit a cigarette and sat back waiting for your audience to notice it and act upon it.
Then along came Social Media and spoilt the party.
Look, I’m a fan of the genuinely social aspects of Social Media as I sit here writing my blog which will go to Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin… But how influenced are you, the reader, by what I have to say? I have some experience of brands and advertising but you didn’t know that and you don’t know how much either. Why would you act on my recommendation?
I learned this week that one ad agency’s social media department has risen from three people to twenty. And what are they all doing? They’re creeping about the web helping us make decisions about what brands to buy and where to find them.
But is a paid army of professional advocates contributing to social intercourse or are they just social agents provocateurs? In the pub, you’re offered a pint, there are four to choose from and a bystander says “that Rusty Bucket Pale Ale is mighty fine – I’d get one of those!” you might listen and give it a try. But if that person was on duty for Rusty Bucket Ales Ltd and was on commission for every customer he converted you might a) feel a little compromised and b) be a little less likely to buy that beer.
Social Media has surpassed critical mass. It’s the no-brain channel of choice for brands and its effects are subtle, effective, mostly free and often invisible. But I regret the latest morph of Social Media. It’s become more insidious than influential and brands will come a cropper if they abuse their social credentials or are seen to compromise their social channels.
The Marlborough Cowboy died of cancer and I hope social media doesn’t catch its own cold.