Written by Mike Abb
Having been in the social media landscape since the year 2000, I have seen this beast grow, transform, reinvent, and take over the lives of anyone with access to the Internet. At 32 years old, MySpace was my first introduction followed by the rise of Facebook. Social media has been a daily portion of my life for over a decade. In fact it’s hard for me to imagine what my “social” life was before it. Many millennials would probably echo these sentiments. Initially, I felt social media was created to give people the power to produce their own media. Professional bloggers and amateurs alike began producing their own content. Not unlike underground newspapers and radio stations that allowed the common man to read and hear what “they” chose. No longer would we be forced to digest what the corporations and their marketing agendas told us we should watch, read and hear. We, the people, took back the control–not too far off from the ideals that sparked us to rebel and form this country. In my opinion, the Internet can be considered the second American Revolution.
Just like the first revolution it didn’t take long for those things we were trying to escape from to sneak their way back into our lives. Those “things” I’m referring to are the big suits with all their structure and agendas. We thought we could get away from it, but quickly realized that structure is what society needs to keep it from imploding. I’m not suggesting a Utopian future isn’t possible, where we all live in harmony free from the issues that plague mankind (disease, famine, war, crime, infidelity, etc.) but let’s get real, that isn’t happening anytime soon. We’ve come to accept and even embrace structure (even if the majority are ignorant of how it even works). We may disdain corporate structure in some senses, but we also need it. The same rings true for the current landscape of the Internet. What once was the true www (wild wild west) is now more regulated and censored than ever before. That doesn’t stop everyone from wanting a piece of the pie. No longer are there just a few miners in search of the gold. Everyone is searching for his or her stake of land grab on the digital frontier. From mom and pop stores to the big box retailers, the Internet “is” the way to reach people. Before it was newspapers, books, radio, movies, and television. Now all of those things have been molded into one portable medium and available 24/7 365.
Who pays for the Internet? Well all those mediums aren’t created for free and all those writers aren’t working for free. You know who foots the bill? Advertisers do. They always have and always will. The Internet is no different. Someone has to pay for our precious Facebook to keep the portal open. Now that we’ve had a taste we can never do without it again. We are addicted to information no matter how high tech to low brow. From the latest scientific breakthroughs to celebrity gossip we demand daily updates. Apart from news and gossip we also need information about the latest and greatest products. With other mediums (print, TV, radio) dying a slow death, where else will we learn about these things? Advertisers have been battling how to play nicely and effectively in the Internet since it was invented. You and I can both attest to the annoyance of pop up and auto play ads that are intended to distract and trick us into clicking away from our intended target. Let us not forget the awful geo-targeted ads that prey on cookies from your browser to “suggest” things all over your news feeds and favorite websites. These are examples of when advertisers get it wrong. No one likes this approach and it does more harm than good to these brands. So how do you find that happy medium?
Remember that old adage “Word of mouth is the best advertising?” Guess what? There is a reason that is engrained into your memory, because it’s true. Why do you think brands choose celebrity spokes models to pitch their products to you? It’s because you psychologically trust a person rather than a brand. A brand rarely has one person representing it. A brand is a company that sometimes has thousands of employees. They create logos and catch phrases to worm their way into your memory, but logos and phrases aren’t human. No matter how adorable the M & M’s candy cartoons are they aren’t real people. Humans trust humans. Go figure. Unfortunately, spokes models are losing their effect on people. We have been so saturated by celebrities and their bought marketing routines they cease to carry the impact they once did.
So how do advertisers tackle this challenge?
Stay tuned for next time: “Reality Check– The Trust Solution.