The One Word You Can’t Say in Social Media

George CarlinGeorge Carlin, by sarahinvegas via Flickr

Here's today's Social Media Insider, via MediaPost:

The One Word You Can't Say

There are seven words you can't say on television, according to
George Carlin, but there's only one you can't say at social media conferences.
As Carlin put it, it's the one word that will "infect your soul, curve
your spine, and keep the country from winning the war." This deadly c-word
is "campaign"; utter it at your peril.

The aversion to the word has been a common theme at a lot of the
events that have focused on social media lately, including the Word of Mouth
Marketing Association's WOMM-U and IAB's Marketplace: Social Media. The word
"campaign" has become the pariah of social marketing. Preferred alternatives
include terms like "program," "initiative," or even
"conversation."

At WOMM-U, I  moderated
a session
between MySpace's SVP of Insight and Planning Heidi Browning, and
Facebook's Head of Brand Solutions Chris Pan. The two agreed more often than
they disagreed, and at the outset both wanted to stress the importance of
long-term social marketing programs. Facebook takes a particularly hard stance
on this, actively discouraging brands from hosting Pages (the official branded
presence) just for campaigns. Pan noted that one marketer created a Page
centered on its tagline, and it bombed with consumers. Then the marketing
switched to focusing on the brand rather than the tagline, and interest picked
up dramatically. Pan said Facebook will allow marketers to create separate
Pages for personas such as mascots and spokespeople, but again, these are
designed to be persistent representations of the brand.

MySpace takes a softer stance on the c-word. It's alright to have
a presence there focusing on a campaign. MySpace is also a very different
experience for marketers, as it requires a significant investment (at least
relative to digital media campaigns; it's hardly significant for TV buyers) for
marketers to create a presence, and much of that commitment goes to media on
the site promoting the page. In that sense, marketers will wind up paying to
run campaigns, but MySpace still recommends that it fits in with ongoing social
media initiatives.

A few days later at the IAB event, the first speaker, Forrester
Research's Josh Bernoff,  started
with an assaul
t  on the forbidden word. He said unequivocally that
"social media is always an ongoing activity," and marketers should
stop thinking about it as a campaign. He discussed how customers are talking to
each other and said, "The only way to succeed is to become a part of this
conversation in a long-term and permanent way."

My colleague, 360i VP of Emerging Media & Client Strategy Sarah Hofstetter,
continued
the theme
at the IAB, noting, "Covering your ears is not a
strategy." She continued, "It's important to get buy-in across the
organization, including media, PR, creative, Web development, CRM [customer
relationship management], and human resources. Get them more comfortable with
the medium, and it becomes less scary. Then it's easier to say you have to be
there." She implied that a lot of the disciplines mentioned are ongoing
functions. There aren't any flight dates for customer relationship management
or human resources.

That can make it daunting to pitch a social marketing program, and
it will present challenges for agencies and vendors in the near term. Even if
there are no campaigns for social media, there are still contracts. Just try
getting into negotiations with a procurement department for a 50-year contract
that renews automatically and see how well that goes.

This all highlights one other area where social media has
something in common with search engine marketing and optimization. No matter
how or where consumers search, people will continue to do so, even if it ebbs
some years and surges others. Similarly, while some aspects of social media
reek of fads, the act of digitally sharing content has been going on at least
since the days of the bulletin board services of the 1980s, and the activity
isn't going to fade away.

If you're a marketer, you may only
be able to sign short-term contracts and plan for just a year or so ahead.
Regardless of what you're doing on paper, you have to have the mindset that
your strategy is paving the way for a perpetual commitment, even if the tactics
continually change.

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