Tuesday, December 2, 2008
The Widget Is Not A Strategy
By Joe Marchese
The widget is not a marketing or advertising strategy, at least not by itself. The discussion surrounding what marketing will become in the "post-advertising era" is reaching a fever pitch. While the death of the 30-second spot has been discussed, and much exaggerated, for some time, the difference this time is that people aren't just saying "there is a problem" -- people are actually proposing solutions. It's no longer a discussion as to the "need" to get involved in social networks, and other social media, but "how" marketers are going to get involved.
Just look at the past week or so...
Ted McConnell of Procter & Gamble is quoted as saying that social nets may never make the type of money they expect off of their inventory, because it might not be theirs to sell (to my mind, a commentary on the respect the entire industry needs to have for the individual).
Then, in response, John Battelle posts a piece outlining how he believes marketing should/does work in social media with "It's Time to Put This Myth To Rest." Basically, Battelle says that if a brand can create an asset that adds value to a conversation in social media, the brand can reach people. I would go a step further and suggest that adding value to a person's social media experience is the new determination of a marketer's relevance. And as we all know, relevance is all that matters.
Then I read "Widgets Are Made for Marketing, So Why Aren't More Advertisers Using Them?" by Bob Garfield, which is the most comprehensive analysis of the current state of the social marketing eco-system I have seen. Garfield does an amazing job of outlining all of the opportunities and challenges widgets offer today's marketer to tap into social media.
All this has left me wanting to emphasize one point, hence the title of this post: The widget is not your strategy. Making the widget itself central to your strategy would be like saying that video is the center of your strategy, which begs the question; "Great, now what?" So we are going to make widgets; what widgets are we going to make? How are we going to distribute them? Why would people take them? Why would people share them? What do we hope to gain by getting people to use them? How are we going to measure success? These are the questions that will keep agencies gainfully employed for the decades to come -- at least, those that figure it out.
Garfield's article also points out that there are many different types of widget strategies. For example, there are widgets that are supposed to make your life better through personal utility, and then there are those meant to be shared with other people, creating a sort of social utility. And please, as I mentioned last week in "In A Social World, If It Doesn't Spread, It's Dead," don't treat people like they are stupid. If your brand is all over something, people will know that sharing it is doing you a favor, and it's fairly likely that if people really need/love the functionality you created, there is an unbranded version out there somewhere. So I repeat, please, do not think you are tricking people into sharing your brand. Instead, create a strategy based on why people would want to share your brand. There may be billions of social network page loads out there, but it is not in any way remnant inventory.
As a matter of fact, achieving the integration of your brand into a conversation between two people in a relevant and meaningful way is the pinnacle of marketing. Treat it as such.
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Joe Marchese is President of socialvibe.
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