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10/08/2009 Social Media, like Rust, Never Sleeps. Neither should your brand.

I read a great post by Armando Alves last week about the rise of social zombies. He talked about the detritus of old microsites (they're like space debris, just waiting to smash something) and how he's seeing the same thing with social media initiatives. They probably look like some houseplants I used to have: good ideas at the time, but lacking the nurturing they deserved and ending up as withered vines in the garbage.

In one of his blog posts last week, Inaki Escudero captured a talk by R/GA's Bob Greenberg and Barry Wackman about the need to stop thinking about campaigns and to start thinking about platforms. They pointed specifically to agencies about the need for them to adapt and get rid of short-term thinking.

Both of these great blogs illustrate one of the key changes social media brings to the table: It never stops.

Campaigns have a beginning and an end. They're very much connected to sales initiatives inside of companies. Time to ramp up back to school or holiday, they say. We have a new product and we need to promote it. Agencies are only too happy to oblige. A new campaign usually means a lot of fresh money to create fresh ideas. That keeps everyone happy, from the bean counters to the rookie designers.

I recognize the ebbs and flows of the business seasons. What's changed, though, is a matter of control. Used to be that advertisers had control: they bought media to turn on the message and stopped it to turn it off. They can still do this, but the conversations and comments about the products and businesses don't stop once the radio spot is off the air. Brands and advertisers need to keep paying attention even though they might want to think instead about the next new, shiny campaign.

It's actually more challenging, and sometimes more rewarding to look at extending existing campaigns or platforms and allowing them to develop like true relationships. That's one of the big issues with social media and brands - you can't ignore someone and then expect them to come running back to you.

Look at a "campaign" that didn't quite stop: Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty. Not only was this a well-integrated effort with a heavy Web focus at the time, but also Dove continued to evolve it. They realized that if they let this drop, people would see this as blatant falsehood and as an attempt at manipulation. If you visit the site today, you'll see a site focused on raising young girls self-esteem. It's now part of the Dove site itself. They now extend the site into a Facebook Fan page with 45,000 fans.

So here's today's challenge:
Take a campaign you're working on now, or one that just ended, and rather than pitch something entirely different, pitch extensions. Social media can help.


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