Social Media Helps Your Advertising Make a Great Meal

Now that the election is behind us, can I quote Karl Marx without being labeled a socialist firebrand? I’ll take my chances, because I can’t resist letting Marx weigh in on the ever-changing social media landscape. He said that “conditions determine consciousness,” which is another way of saying that what we produce is always ahead of what we think, which is another way of saying that we tend to create new technologies and play around with them for a long time before we get really efficient at using them to make money. Or to advance the glorious revolution.

The question of making money from social media is on every marketer’s mind these days, because we’re faced with the unfortunate confluence of a hot, new marketing venue and a deep, dark recession. In a webinar I conducted back in October ’08, I asked marketers whether they intended to increase their investment in social media in ’09, and more than 70% said they would. Marketing budgets have been hammered since then, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find a more bearish response if that poll were conducted today.

Which is a shame, because I’m seeing signs that our thinking is starting to catch up with social media marketing. There’s a growing awareness that the real value of social media marketing is not as another brand platform from which to shout our message at an advertising-addled public, but as way to augment, enhance, and extend our paid media strategies.

I’m trying to gain some traction here for my Hamburger Helper™ Theory of social media, and not just because I like the idea of bringing Marx and Hamburger Helper together in a theory (though it’s a factor). Under this theory, social media works best when it helps traditional advertising work harder, and when it’s used as a cost-effective means of conducting marketing activities that were already important to us back in the boring old 1.0 world.

Yes, I am forced at this point to use the obligatory 2.0 buzzword “crowdsourcing” to describe this phenomenon of using social media to complete your traditional marketing tasks. To name just a few of these tasks and their social media method:
• User research through social media audits and ethnographic studies
• Brand research and brand assets through user-generated content contests
• Customer support through message boards and wikis
• Customer retention through online communities
• Extended impressions through social network integration of advertising

Any one of these tactics – plus the myriad ones I haven’t thought of – merits its own discussion, which is why I’m hoping to start that discussion at the upcoming Online Marketing Summit, Feb 4-7 in San Diego. Stick around for the Saturday session, where I’ll be waxing prolific on social media phenomena and violating various trademark laws with my topic, The Hamburger Helper™ Theory of Social Media: Making Traditional Marketing Go Further For Less. One lucky participant will take home a box of Potato Stroganoff.