Wednesday, February 3

Integrating Communication: Advertising-Driven Social Media

As mentioned before, there are many ways to integrate social media into organizational communication. And every model has a number of variables unique to an organization. The key component in every model, however, is integration.

Two weeks ago, we proposed what a public relations-driven social media program might look like. But what about advertising?

In social media circles, there tends to be a misconception that all advertising has to be interruption based. It's not really true. Advertising covers a broad spectrum of communication materials. And good advertising delineates itself into any number of purposes, including introduction, education, entertainment, and branding.

The best of it doesn't interrupt as much as it entices readers or viewers to enjoy the context of paid message as much as the editorial or entertainment content. It's the reason Super Bowl advertisements generate so much interest every year. And it's the reason good copywriters are able to develop skill sets to write messages for a large audience and yet, those audience members feel like the message is uniquely written for them.

An Advertising-Driven Social Media Model

The above illustration represents what an advertising-driven communication plan might look like with social media. In this model, advertising manages advertising functions and supports social media functions, with some crossover. For simplicity, we've broken it down into primary functions and then reinforced some shared functions.


• Managing traditional mass communication, which includes collateral, print, and broadcast. As long as there is mass media, even if it continues to serve increasingly smaller niches, the functions remain the same. What is different is that all of this communication has the additional role of helping consumers find two-way communication portals.

• Promotions, which include direct response campaigns, guerilla marketing, and special events (sometimes managed by public relations), post-purchase communication is managed by the team. Sure, some is interruption-based. But interruption-based communication is likely to continue as long as people respond to it.

• While Web sites were lumped into an online mass media category, the online environment has changed. One-dimensional, one-way static communication can only exist as an option for the most passive visitors. It's the primary reason people like Mitch Joel recently reminded communicators that Web sites are Web sites no more. Social media can help make them consumer functional.

Social Media.

• Maintain, manage, and promote the organization's blog or similar Web site function. This may include market intelligence (which is shared with the advertising team), but primarily consists of content development and content distribution that adds value for customers. While blogs are presentation oriented, they do provide for two-way communication.

• Maintain, manage, and develop the organization's social networks. This includes online programs and information sharing that nurtures true engagement and two-way communication in real time. Where advertising plays a role is that most social networks provide vehicles for advertising. If someone doesn't think online ads work, they are either delusional or have bad ads.

• Blogger outreach occurs directly and indirectly as bloggers may source content from the organization's blog or develop relationships with the social media team via any number of social networks. Where advertising can support this effort is in including some blogs (or group purchases) on media buys based on recommendations form the social media team.

Shared functions.

• Regardless of which team takes the lead, message development and branding become a shared function. Social media programs generally have a tone, much like any other communication. While some copywriters could cross-write mass media and social media content, not all copywriters can. It's a different style, one that borrows from journalism as much as advertising. Likewise, agencies can remain responsible for design, but only while working in tandem with social media teams.

• Research is also a shared function of both teams. Advertising (and marketing) have had a lead position in conducting consumer focus groups and demographic research for a long time. It's beneficial in message development. Where social media gives the entire component lift is in providing real-time snapshots of sentiment and analyzing trends.

• Even when a communication plan is primarily advertising-driven, modern companies still benefit from public relations. In this model, public relations works best when it supports paid placement and in support of blogger outreach (because journalists work online too).

Model Summation.

This model represents an approach to communication that emphasizes one-way communication, but is supported by two-way communication. It makes advertising more effective because instead of attempting to drive consumers to a point of sale or push an identity, it helps consumers find two-way communication points.

Why is that important? Specifically, advertising helps create demand and directs consumers to areas of optional engagement, which then directs people to demand fulfillment. And, depending on the company, social media can either support customers or serve as front line soft sales.

All that aside, the primary reason an integrated advertising-social media approach is much more powerful than traditional models is because, nowadays, most consumers look up products and companies online after seeing an advertisement (or editorial, for that matter). Social media represents the first opportunity to validate the product or service. Or, in other words, advertising introduces an identity while social media nurtures a brand relationship.

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