Sharing is the new shouting

What works when people are busy online is remarkable content, shared by someone they value

Worldwide social media revenue will grow by 50% year on year in 2012, led by advertising sales, according to Gartner research. Gartner estimates the figure will rise from a projected USD 10.3 billion this year to USD 14.9 billion next year and more than USD 29 billion by 2015. Social media advertising revenue, including money earned from display ads and digital video commercials across computers, smartphones and tablets, will total USD 5.5 billion in 2011, growing to USD 8.2 billion in 2012.

Recent research from the Internet Advertising Bureau showed that digital video adveritising had increased by 100%. A story in the Financial Times claimed buyers in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market had (finally) discovered that advertising via social media websites could be a cost-effective way to reach consumers.

Stop shouting
“New” media are replacing the old: this we know without the figures. But here’s the thing. It’s not good enough to move the old ad strategy – interruption marketing – from one medium to another. Users on social media are not passive, as they are when they watch TV. They are busy and they do not want to be interrupted.

The proof? Consider the decision by General Motors (GM) to quit paid advertising on Facebook. GM, one of Facebook’s largest advertisers, said it was not cost-effective to pay for ads on the social networking site, but added that it would maintain a direct-to-consumer presence there. Who is really buying anything as a result of banner ads and “sponsored stories” on Facebook? The answer is: very, very few people. This is because paid display advertising on Facebook is interrupting users and they have no use for it.

Shouting your brand name at a crowd with a large megaphone is not only dead as a technique, it’s actively counter-productive today. Consumers are too busy and have many ways to ignore the messages. What works when consumers are busy online is interesting, useful, funny or otherwise remarkable content, shared by someone in their network, someone they value. Get that content right and users actively opt in and market for you, encouraging engagement by word of mouth.

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