Recently, I recently called for businesses to broaden their perspective of Social Media from an experimental stage of acting and reacting, to one of learning and leading through intelligence, participation, and also publishing. Creating social profiles and broadcasting tweets and status updates is elementary, whereas creating a meaningful presence through the development and dissemination of remarkable content is judicious. What lies ahead is an inflection point in the maturation of social media, publishing, marketing and communications. And, it all begins with the realization and the corresponding actions that businesses must become media in order to earn greater relevance and ultimately thought leadership within their respective markets.
Every Company is a Media Company: EC=MCGood friend Tom Foremski is leading a powerful movement to rally companies towards a new media (r)evolution. As he has so astutely observed, every company is a media company or EC=MC :
Every company is a media company because every company publishes to its customers, its staff, its neighbors, its communities. It doesn't matter if a company makes diapers or steel girders, it must also be a media company and know how to use all the media technologies at its disposal. While this has always been true to some extent, it is even more important today, because our media technologies have become so much more powerful. It is no longer a one-way broadcast medium, everyone now has access to an online printing press that can potentially reach tens of millions of people.
Indeed, the future of marketing starts with publishing, and as such, brands must contribute to the evolution of social media in order to truly socialize media and galvanize communities to create more informed and active markets. While traditional mass marketing doesn't vanish, the customary intermediaries whom we relied upon to broadly circulate our messages and intentions are now only part of the media cycle. With the proliferation of social networks and the channels they've constructed between people, social graphs are forming dedicated audiences willfully connected through context and interest.
Businesses can now weave social graphs of their own through the creation of social presences within the communities where customers, prospects and those who influence them, are actively sharing, consuming, and seeking relevant content and information. While many companies are just now realizing the immediate benefits of social participation and engagement, the rewards are far richer than the accumulation of followers or fans.
Time and attention is a precious commodity and therefore requires thoughtful commentary, involvement, contribution, and programming to spark actions and reactions and concurrently earn two-way alliances that ultimately form the relationships businesses need to cultivate communities and also inspire advocacy.
Social Objects are Conversational Catalysts
In Web 1.0, it was said that content was king. In social media, one could argue that context is now king, supported by a royal court of content producers and connectors united by a common desire to share information with purpose and utility. In social media, content and context are packaged as social objects and they serve as the catalysts for conversation, intelligence, and sharing, and hopefully, word of mouth. Essentially, social objects are the thoughtful blog posts we publish, the relevant updates we Tweet, the helpful tips we leave for others when they check-in, the useful videos we broadcast, the telling pictures we post, the constructive comments we voice, as well as every other pertinent message we syndicate throughout the statusphere .
Newton's third law of motion states that every action has a reaction equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. With every social object we introduce, we merit an entitled response, which either validates or discredits the strategy and work that introduced and propelled our content online. The cause and effect of our objective and outcome is dictated by our mission and purpose. Social objects represent the voice, personality, and design of brands and also reflect the culture and virtues we hope to embody and convey.
As a result, social objects can trigger the creation and proliferation of earned media, user-generated content that fortifies and spreads our story to each respective social networks and enlivens interaction among desirable social graph. The goal is to further incite reactions that potentially further the social effect. Social Objects can take the form of a myriad of other conversation catalysts including...
Earned media is the result of our owned, paid, and participatory media programs and is reflected in the blog posts, tweets, status updates, comments, and ultimately actions of our consumers, peers, and influencers. Earned media is ideally linked to owned media campaigns as well as proactive initiatives that attempt to incite viral and word of mouth activity.
Owned Media - media that is essentially, controlled by the brand. Owned objects are social objects produced by the company and introduced to each network in a variety of formats, text, video, audio, experiences, etc.
Paid Media represents the visibility we purchase, such as display ads, paid search, and sponsorships. When paired with owned and earned media programs, paid media serves as a hub for complementing, reinforcing, and polishing brand voice, directives, mission, and stature. While many argue over the future and fate of advertising, what’s clear is that online paid presences can benefit initiatives where action and experiences are defined and promoted through the click path.
Participatory Media – Representing an extension of earned and owned media, participatory media takes the shape of a hosted hub where brand representatives and our communities can interact and collaborate. For example, go to examples usually refer to Dell’s IdeaStorm and Starbuck’s “My Idea” network which resemble branded wikis designed to elicit responses, dictate direction, establish community-focused governances , etc. Participatory media equalizes the balance of power, providing a dedicated platform the gives voice to the consumer and a channel for their ideas to trigger transformation or change.
Sponsored Media - This new category fuses owned, paid, and earned media. Sponsored media is one that is championed by companies such as Izea , MyLikes , Ad.ly , Twittad , among others and is creating a new medium for packaging messages through trusted voices within highly visible and social channels. Sponsored media can take the form of paid tweets, blog posts, appearances, and featured objects on targeted profiles. And, whether you agree or disagree with the idea, the reality is that they work and they seem to benefit all parties involved, from brand to paid affiliates to their communities Businesses are presented with a unique moment in time through interactive technologies to directly capture the attention of their audiences and ultimately stakeholders, through the creation, propagation, and connection of these social objects.
However, access to new, expansive, and dynamic platforms does not guarantee our ability to earn and captivate audiences. Our ability to connect and reconnect is driven by our understanding of the unique needs and requirements of those consumers defining our markets and our mastery of the tools and services that form parallel contextual networks.
While contests, updates, polls, questions, responses, and other everyday commentary offers the appearance of engagement, it is merely a glimpse at the potential impressions, intentions, and understanding of the audience and the true potential for these powerful mediums. Attention is something to hold and behold and therefore requires much more than surface level or fleeting interaction in order to capture and generate awareness.
As brands become media, the need for calendared and programmed content grows. Not unlike the editorial production assignments and schedules maintained by the most admired and engaging media properties, the businesses that emulate these disciplines will also harvest presence, consequence, and recognition. Once audiences are identified, their interests as well as their search, consumption and sharing patterns are worthy of study.
We become the people we wish to reach... It's in this process of discovery that we learn everything about the people we're trying to reach and inspire and more importantly, we acquire knowledge of what moves them and the guidance they're seeking in order to make decisions. As such, we can reverse engineer the social objects that would relate to and compel them specifically...from demonstrating expertise to answering questions to providing instruction to unlocking creativity.
The establishment of an editorial infrastructure that coalesces marketing, communications and the integrity of journalism and the dedicated quest for truth and information set the stage for a future of marketing that is as undiscovered as it is promising. An editorial program requires a rhythm and a beat that creates and distributes exceptional and customer-facing social objects supported by a culture that seeks to not broadcast propaganda, but sincerely introduce value, solutions and insight to people seeking direction and vision.
While companies are no strangers to producing and pushing content, they're intent and overall activity, contribute to a conventional image and sentiment that companies can only talk in tongues governed by marketing and sales and not with the voice of a peer or instructor genuinely endeavoring to support or improve the state of conversation and guidance. Most companies talk "about" the prospects of engagement and the acts of socializing media while very few actually socialize media.
The stark and contrasting differences between engaging in conversation and leading dialogue are revealed in the actions and words of the businesses that assume a role in the great online production of Social Media. Most public performances are limited engagements only, relegated to listening and lite chatter with some venturing into uncharted territory through exploratory interaction, customer service, and loose and undefined measurements. Talking about media and producing media requires forethought and a reinforcement of steps that march with cadence.
Editor's Note: This post is part one in a two part series. Part two will be published tomorrow, April 13th.
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Originally published Apr 12, 2010 10:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016