Why Advertising Will Not Win The Battle Of Social Media - Social Media Explorer
Why Advertising Will Not Win The Battle Of Social Media
Why Advertising Will Not Win The Battle Of Social Media

Jeremy Pepper’s passionate diatribe, “PR Will Lose Social Media To Advertising Because Of Sex,” raises relevant questions about the future of social media. He indicates advertising and marketing will win the fight for control of this (relatively) new medium, thus saying public relations will lose it. (Jeremy is a PR guy by discipline.)

His catchy headline says social media will be overcome because of sex. The explanation details the meaning — that advertising understands how to make the mundane exciting. Pepper then outlines a plan to save PR, though I think he means to save social media. His first point is education.

GreybeardI agree with Jeremy that it is our job, as PR professionals, social media specialists or whatever it is we call ourselves, to educate our industry (the marketing one as a whole, not just PR) of the delicate balance that is the social media environment. However, I don’t think this comes down to a battle of advertising and PR.

Being a PR professional, Jeremy alludes to his industry as the oft-ignored and mostly afterthought sect. My tendency is to agree with his assessment. His positioning of PR as a combatant in the war for control of the social media territory is understandable.

What I don’t think Jeremy may recognize through his piece is that the future of marketing communications as a whole is changing. Social media is a direct result of the masses flocking to the Internet to control their media environment. This is a nice way of saying folks are online because they hate advertising. As Rob Key’s philosophy indicates, the norms of this new found community will dictate whether or not advertisers will be welcome there.

Those who assimilate into the community and interact with it meaningfully will gain credibility and, thus, influence. (Todd Defren’s words, not mine.) If advertisers try to talk to the community and not with it, they will be asked to leave.

We as marketers are Jane Goodall and the communities online are the chimpanzees. (A metaphor, not a shot at the community intellect.) Trumpeting our arrival with the flash, pizazz and, yes, sex of advertising will only result in Greybeard moving the community elsewhere. Or worse, whipping our ass.

Jeremy asserts, correctly, that education is the key to this. We as social media explorers must educate the world of marketing of the appropriate rules of engagement here. Our educating must be inclusive of the bombasters on the ad side. Failure to do so won’t result in the demise of social media, only a tightening of security.

The bouncer is going to get bigger and badder.

Of course, those preaching the gospel on social media engagement, like Jeremy, are going to continue to hold lofty positions in the marketing community. The it-getters will be heard. If we educate appropriately, the hearing will be done on the front end. If we don’t, or if advertising goes running in to crash the party too quickly, we’ll be heard on the flip side.

And we’ll be picking Greybeard’s foot out of their behinds.

For our part, Doe Anderson has already had a primer on social media. Our internal education program will grow to include specific breakdowns on social networking, social news sites, social bookmarking, blogging and more. We will explore not only what each of these are, but how we as marketers can appropriately approach each one on behalf of our clients. We have extended the learning opportunity to our clients as well and are already booked for one such presentation.

The biggest takeaway I present in these offerings is that we, as marketers, now face the challenge of A) Marketing to people who do not want to be marketed to, B) Talk with the community and not to them and C) Win invitation into conversations rather than injecting ourselves there.

The first rule of communications is to know your audience. This is why I believe Jeremy’s doomsday assertion that advertising will one day overrun social media is jumping the gun. Because smart advertisers will know in order to reach this community, they must throw away all they know and start again.

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IMAGE: By wordman1 on Flickr.

[tags]advertising, marketing, PR, public relations, social media, community, community standards, Web 2.0[/tags]

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
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  • Agree, Sujoy. But if done on their terms, it becomes easier.

  • Marketing to people who do not want to be marketed to…that’s a tough one.

  • Hey Mel,

    We have begun the education process in everything from our RFPs and pitches to ongoing conversations about the opportunities. I am presenting my social media 101 talk to two main clients in the coming weeks and give mini-talks on the topic regularly. We’re probably not way out in front on this, but we aren’t behind and I know of other agencies that thing social media is something requiring penicillin.

  • Melissa King

    Falls – very good post and several points I’ve heard reiterated again and again. How much education have you done with your clients? How much awareness do they have of how the rules have changed and how much resistance do you run into?

  • Harry — I totally agree, but again I don’t see this as a battle. Advertising and PR can fight all they want. The community will dictate the standards. PR will win, its just a matter of how quickly and/or how much too quick to act advertisers will muck it up, thus making it harder for those of us who respect the community to connect with them.

    Thanks for chiming in! Glad to see you here. I enjoy your posts as well.

  • Jason, it is imperative that PR win this round. For social media to succeed, it must remain a conversation unsullied by paid messages. PR is about dialogue, not monologue. True social networks should not and will not allow the advertiser into the family without a fight. There are some smart marketers who get it and who will counsel their clients on the correct way to interface with social networks.

  • Hey Derek,

    Business models and financial incentive will push advertisers into social media space, but the community (I think) will push back. This is their territory and the consumer today is more savvy to the ways of advertising and corporate America than they ever have been. The public is skeptical and intollerant of intrusion.

    Social media is the first environment the consumer can claim as its own and can control accordingly. For advertisers to be influential, they must play by a new set of rules. We will educate the ones that want to learn them. The others will fall behind as the community dismisses them.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • I definitely concur that education is the first step in this entire endeavor. Mistakes and abuses of social media applications are definitely out there for reference.

    How/or do you think that this idea may get blurred when you start taking into account business models and/or financial incentive? Is that even a question that can be answered at this point in time?


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