Social Media: Are You Sneaky?

The digital cognoscenti has been telling us – for years – that digital marketing is the wave of the future. That so-called traditional media, you know those dinosaurs on TV and radio, is a thing of some steam-driven past. I could go on a long diatribe about how this is nonsense but this guy does a much better job of that.

It goes without saying that click-thru rates are at an all time low when it comes to digital display. Much like newspaper ads – we just are not seeing digital advertising (with the exception of search). Consumers have trained themselves to filter these out because they are just so much background noise. (Don’t believe me? When was the last time YOU clicked on an ad.)

Of course, the key to making this work, according to the digital experts, is through content marketing. Create compelling content that just so happens to contain some sort of product/brand message and people will come flocking to buy your stuff. Tell stories, engage, start a conversation – these are the keys to advertising success.

Except when they aren’t.

According to this study as reported in Ad Age, so-called “contextual” marketing is actually perceived as negative. Why? The answer is simple – it is sneaky.

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Consumers understand advertising. They know they will have to watch or hear commercials to get content they enjoy. And, they know what the commercials are because the messages are obvious. (Forget for a moment that the FCC and the FTC require commercial content to be – essentially – labelled as such). Consumers can choose to ignore or “engage” these commercials but they are not under the mistaken assumption that these messages are nothing more than attempts to sell them something. That’s OK. It’s fair game. And, for the most part – it works.

People see a TV commercial or hear a radio spot and use that information to make a decision on what they need to buy. Sometimes these messages have timely information (“40% off this Friday only!”) and sometimes they are just there as a reminder (“Drink Coke”). The consumer-advertiser relationship may be love-hate (or is it hate-love) but it works.

So, why would you want to disguise your messages as “real” information. Despite what you may think, consumers are not stupid. They can usually smell the sell from miles away. What’s worse, if you actually pass off your “content” as real and then they find out you’ve been tricking them – they get pissed.

Do you really want the words “sneaky” and “tricky” attached to your brand? We have been told that the digital era has ushered in a new wave of transparency. Why disguise your advertising as content?

I am not against advertising in the social space. I think brands should create stories – about themselves – as a way of creating a deeper understanding of what they offer. Use Facebook or Twitter to post interesting tidbits that relate to what you are and what you offer. By all means, let your fans respond and contribute. But, don’t sneak up on them and pretend you are trying to do anything else but sell your widgets.

We understand that is your mission and we respect you for it.

Your thoughts?

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