Social media advertising: an exercise in futility?

Picture the scene. A meeting at some swanky corporate offices, with various marketing boffins and their creative agencies (charging by the hour) locked in feverish discussion over the media plan for the next BIG product launch. Eventually, after much ‘whiteboarding’, chest-beating, and buzzword bingo, the head honcho leans back in his chair and calmly announces: “engagement’s the name of the game, we need to go social”.

Engagement

Everybody’s heard of it, and everybody wants it. Certainly every brand: they want to feel that close proximity of their customers, to feel loved, relevant, necessary… To know that they’re involved in conversations with people who really do care about what they have to say — a two-way dialogue that leads to more sales meaningful long-term relationships.

But is this possible? Can brands really expect their social media presence to drive this kind of interaction and brand involvement?

The answer of course is a resounding no.

Not that you need me to tell you that. Instead, you only need to look at your own behaviour, and the little (if any) attention you’re prepared to invest in advertising when doing your own social surfing. Reading a recent article in the Drum, which was subtly titled ‘social media marketing is completely useless — but it could be a lot better’, I see that an average organic post on a Facebook page is seen by only 11% of a company’s followers. Indeed, it goes on to say that only 0.22% of the followers of major brands ‘engage’ with such activity — or 1 out of every 455 followers who see it in the first place.

Building castles on sand

So where does this leave companies looking to build more meaningful relationships with their customers, only to find such sentiment not being reciprocated (read: positively resisted)? By way of response I could refer to a whole heap of online articles that address the problem. That explain to the layperson how social media advertising can be made to work. All of it carefully constructed insights, best practice recommendations — and ultimately futile.

Not that I’m saying the thinking behind such articles is redundant. Not all of it. There are some very clever people out there producing great results, and making the most of the tools at their disposal — people I’ve known since the dawn of the Internet. The trouble is it’s all built on the premise that “we need to somehow make people interact with our campaigns, to interrupt their conscious thought processes, and to crowbar our own message directly into their psyche — even if they’re not willing or prepared (or even interested) to listen to what we have to say.

In other words, advertising that’s based on very scientific answers for a very unscientific medium. Hence why most brands end up with a spray and prey approach to their social media activity. A spray that threatens to reach gargantuan (love that word) proportions in the not too distant future: reading a recent Adweek article, the headlines point out that social media ad spend was up 60% year on year for Q1 2017; and that more than 900 brands now spend more than £130 million to advertise on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and LinkedIn — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

A platform for change

What the above is so eloquently trying to say is that on most current social media networks, the relationship between advertiser and consumer is fundamentally broken. People don’t want to see brands interrupting what they consider ‘me time’, and those that do run the risk of being blackballed for eternity.

How can the established social media players respond?

I would humbly suggest the answer is they can’t. The changes advertisers need to help them generate real and measurable returns require systemic change across not just the functionality of a Facebook, Snapchat, or YouTube etc. — but also their very business models. Put another way, the scale of the problem calls for more than just cosmetic surgery. Rather we need to look at bringing to life an entirely new social media entity.

A network that:

· Empowers users and communities to decide for themselves if they want to accept advertising, and for those that do to set the criteria for the frequency of the advertising received.

· Actually pays people to engage with the material by offering a share of the overall campaign cost paid by the advertiser, thereby effectively monetising their attention, and encouraging more active consumption of ad content.

· Offers advertisers access to individuals and communities of people who belong to a variety of demographic segments — and have actively agreed to engage with ads in return for financial gain.

· Provides an incentive for individuals to offer direct feedback on the relevance, impact, and quality of each ad received, therefore providing brands with the ability to constantly refine and improve their performance.

· Is decentralized, and built on blockchain technology to help ensure advertisers can maintain an accurate audit trail of every location their ads appear in — a growing problem made worse by fake news and extremist content that NO brand wants to be associated with!

· Enables brands to bid for access to the audience segments they want to engage with, and set their own limits for acquiring personal and community advertising space.

These are the blueprints for a fairer, more open and ultimately more rewarding social media experience for advertisers and users alike. An approach that turns spray and pray into pay and say — and opens the door for brands to speak directly to people prepared and willing to hear from them.

This is social media 2.0.

This is Howdoo.

Join us in building the new social web, a journey that begins today, with even more exciting features coming soon — starting with our Alpha launch on the 20th of February. Subscribe to our newsletter and telegram channel today.