Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

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The problem is no longer quality or quantity. The problem is now choice.

In the old world, before the Social Web and before the big Internet portals, if you wanted to advertise or market your products and services, all you really had to do was make a few choices. There were limited media channels and within those media channels, the choices were fairly limited too. Along with that, there really was only a few reasons to advertise: reach, direct response and if you were really advanced, you were looking to build a database of people to regularly mail (an old school term for "connecting").

Then the world changed.

The idea of "57 channels and nothing on" seems almost as ludicrous as listening to six songs on a turntable, getting up off the couch, flipping the vinyl over and listening to six more songs. It seems barbaric in the iPod world. If you want content, there are – literally – thousands of choices in any one vertical. That content is available in text, images, audio and video. There’s short-form, there’s long-form, there’s stuff available as it happens, daily, weekly, monthly, on-demand, and on any platform fathomable.

What’s a Marketer to do?

The easy answer is: go where the audience is. That’s what Facebook has recently been telling advertisers in a bid to win over more brands and crank up the advertising dollars. They are comparing their 500+ million users to some of the biggest broadcasting platforms and hit TV shows, to let brands know that reach is reach and that the Internet is a mass media play.

The Internet can be a mass media play, but that’s not what makes it interesting.

While Facebook has 500+ million users, they’re also quick to point out in their stats page that the average user has about 130 connections. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Facebook is not big. Facebook is a big bunch of very small things… and there’s nothing wrong with that, but, to get to that same traditional mass media reach of audience you not only have to work really hard to make tangible connections, you have to be there when they are (not everybody is online and in their feeds all day) and – the hardest part – you have to be able to make the creative work for you.

Let’s face it, the creative is not great.

The ads are thumbnail size at best, some are just text and most are surrounded by other competing messages. It’s not just Facebook, it’s most online advertising. The majority of online display advertising is cluttering up the user’s space from what they really want to do: consume content or create content.

There’s got to be a better way.

I’m not just talking about figuring out how to CTRL-ALT-DEL your business and Marketing. I am talking about making better decisions, because that’s something you finally can do. Yes, within these many, many channels you can actually make better decisions, more targeted decisions. You can find the handful of websites, Blogs and people on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube who actually care what you have to say. You don’t even have to advertise to them (but, you can if you would like to). You can use that opportunity to publish content, to become active in their community and/or help them make better decisions. It’s up to you.

All of the channels now exist for you to reach your customers. Now, it’s up to you to make the better/right decisions.


  1. I’ve been online in some capacity or other since 1993-ish, and my eyes and brain are trained to ignore banner ads. Web advertisements are, in my experience, simply a gently waving flag that says, “Hey, here’s this great thing, now go plug the name into your favorite search engine and see how you can get it free instead of clicking through to our website.” While I make a point to support independent businesses (my main focus here is book-related media, as that’s my field), I worry that too many publishers are living in the past, and don’t recognize that their presence on social media networks – their actual interaction with their consumers – is what will sell their products as opposed to passively advertising them to internet users who have but a few sites they frequent.
    Be present, be personable, be accessible. That’s what makes the difference for me. Throw all the money you want at Flash ads in today’s Shelf Awareness – but what will really engage me is a response when I address a tweet to your pub house.

  2. That’s your own fair assessment, I think there’s value both in advertising in Social Media and using the channel to engage and connect. I don’t think it’s a zero sum game and I don’t believe it’s one over another. It all depends on the over-arching brand strategy.

  3. I actually commented on this very issue this morning on a RSS feed of yours from September or October. Yes, we have to be discriminating with our choices. The information is so vast that our minds are saturated. Stay focused and choose wisely.
    From a marketers standpoint, the prosumers are actually telling you what they want by subscribing to certain feeds, groups, etc.. Of course the trade-off is information overload.

  4. Mitch –
    Thanks for this post… I, for one, really appreciate the actual call out that Facebook is “a lot of little things”. And, I think social media overall can be described this way. People quickly think that Social Media is “the next big thing” and that finding the silver bullet to market there will solve every and all business challenges.
    But, as you call out, it is key to know your strategy – and then to find the right platforms, the right series of “little things” to create genuine engagement and conversion to achieve business results.
    For me – social media is one additional tool in the savvy marketer’s arsenal. And, where it surpasses other tools we’ve had before (and still have today) is that it can create a unique, timely, relevant opportunity to have a one-on-one (which quickly becomes one-to-many-ones) conversation, with real-time feedback. The ability to course correct to ensure goals are achieved has never been greater than it is today with social media. And THAT is where marketers and communicators – in any industry – need to focus: be open and willing to take feedback, find a way to have a nimble structure which allows for course correction, and continue a dialogue with feverish brand ambassadors who will carry your message and share it through their communities… all creating a drive for higher conversions, increased volume and deeper loyalty.
    Thanks again!

  5. I agree that we have so many more choices now and with that comes the possibility of increased creativity and chaos. I just started out last year and 20% of my clients came from the community I am building around mindful marketing. And while my facebook ads did not get enough click throughs for my workshops I know it worked for another business to build their fan base.
    So really, it is no longer one way is better than the other but as you mentioned, find out where your potential customers are and be there to engage with them. I really do believe that the next big thing moving away from brand building is building community. But along the way we will still continue to use traditional channels in combination with social media channels to meet our business goals. As long as we are clear about our business goals, our social media goals, who is our desired audience, what are they looking for and where are they, and how to engage them in ways we are most inspired and skilled to do so, all is good.

  6. If you’re only strategy is to advertise your business via banner ads, then yes, you will most likely lose, even if your content behind the ad is great (wherever the ad sends the user).
    As you say, it’s not a zero sum game, and there’s obviously value in paid media – otherwise it wouldn’t exist. It’s that this paid media needs to direct a viewer to valuable, engaging, and entertaining content that is owned and earned. And that content might exist in many different channels. It could be a contest that incorporates user-submitted YouTube videos, as well as a fun iPhone/iPad game application, being spread by REAL people behind Twitter and Facebook channels interacting with the audience every day.
    Let’s make sure we don’t sacrifice quality of content because we are so excited to spread it across a myriad of channels. I’d rather write 5 blog posts and tweet them each once in a week than write 1 blog post and tweet about it every day.
    Jon Thomas

  7. We are on the same page here. I too believe advertising, in the pure, old form, isn’t efficient anymore. I prefer to become part of a community, listen to what people have to say and give my view on it as well. The rest comes natural, without trying to actively sell stuff. That’s how I made the best connections on the web, sharing an interest and becoming part of a niche, known and (hopefully) appreciated.
    Besides, regarding Facebook ads, I don’t even see them thanks to my ad blocker. I really wonder what’s the % of people using ad blockers out there, any idea?

  8. A great extension on my concept that it’s not about “how many” people you put your message in front… it’s about “who” you are putting that message in front of and how closely you can really connect to them.

  9. The amazing part about all of that is that they now have the nooks and crannies to speak, specifically, to their target audience. The idea of “spray and pray” still lives… and you can still do it online, but it’s that specific niche content that (to me) is the most exciting.

  10. I think community is harder to build than people think. I think most people confuse engagement with community. Community only happens after a semi-long period of time where the relationship is really wanted on both parts.
    I don’t think there is much of a community here (for example), but there’s lots of engagement. If there were a community, I think people would respond more to one another’s comments rather than it just being me… to me, that is an indicator.

  11. Figuring out that right pulse – how much content to pulse out, how much the audience wants to engage with, etc… is – without a doubt – one of the hardest things to figure out. Most brands still struggle with this. For the most part, they don’t know the pulse and wind up either publishing too much or too little content.

  12. It’s a great strategy, but the challenge is that no one can prove that this is more effective than traditional mass media advertising, so brands who engage in these tougher decisions are left with the feeling that they’re leaving people out and not connecting their message to enough people…. we’ll know as these channels evolve if that’s all a legitimate concern… or not.

  13. Mitch you hit the Facebook thing perfectly. They do it to build IPO hype. I have been reading Greg Verdino’s book micromarketing and he mentioned 5bil piece of information are exchanged on Facebook each week. This could be photos, comments, updates, links etc. I said wow 5billion! And of course the finance degree immediately calculates 9 piece per user per week. Which is pretty sad isn’t it.
    But part of his premise about mass marketing is true. The channels are there but they have been sliced and diced. The same amount of people watching TV just way more channels. It complicates strategies. It ads costs and hurts the bottom line.
    Of course I rarely see any Agencies offer solutions aside from spend more in more places..vs spend smarter in the right places. It is really daunting. But for most businesses two things will always stay constant. Direct sales will always work if you have a product that can afford that cost. And your sign. Nothing will ever trump your street sign if your a brick and mortar business.

  14. Very true; there are multitudes of people on Twitter and Facebook who feel the need to connect to anyone willing to follow them. Discerning people adhere to the concepts you’ve mentioned in an April post, “The Trouble With Twitter – Confessions Of A Twitter Snob”. In a nutshell, quality over quantity.

  15. “I rarely see any Agencies offer solutions aside from spend more in more places..vs spend smarter in the right places.”… which agencies and which brands have the true guts to risk it and cross that chasm?
    They don’t.
    Then can do a little bit of both… if they really want to and see what the results say.

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