Social media provides a conundrum for advertising.
Some advertising campaigns have talkability, but rarely – if ever – fit comfortably into a social environment. Ads sell, they do not socialise.
Hence the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising has commissioned a report into how the advertising industry needs to adapt its way of working in light of the social media explosion, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The FT’s digital media correspondent, Tim Bradshaw, fingers the problem precisely when he notes that users of social media sites “are logging in for communication rather than commerce”. The traditional advertising model – even adapted for the web as banner ads and click-throughs – is considered intrusive in social media. My colleague, Mark Hanson, refers to it as “like sticking a billboard in someone’s front room while they’re watching TV”.
Where advertising’s “telling and selling” struggles in social networking, PR should flourish for a number of reasons: firstly, it’s about creating content that’s useful, portable and shareable. Also, there should be a better appreciation of the need for two-way communication and an understanding of what goes and what doesn’t go in a particular social situation online. From our own experience at Staniforth, a PR-led approach is also good for persuading senior executives to get involved directly when there’s a crisis in customer confidence being played out online.
That said, Todd Defren over at PR Squared has rightly questioned the dubious practices that some PR people are bringing to social media, and this blog has also visited the topic recently, but seeing more encouraging signs that PR is cleaning up its act in time to claim a worthy place in the social media sphere.
Companies and brands will continue to advertise, but in thinking about how to unwrap the riddle of marketing to people who are pre-programmed to resist your advances, a closer collaboration with PR is essential.