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10/01/2009 Teach Your Dumb Media to Speak


I had an interesting conversation yesterday that started about social media but turned into a discussion about two-way communication. Right now, there's so much buzz about social media and things like Twitter's billion dollar valuation that we might be missing the whole point of what's going on.

The business of Twitter isn't that important. The functionality Twitter introduced is. That's why companies like Facebook are trying to duplicate it.

Twitter and social media created a giant leap forward in dialogue branding. They provided ways we could have two-way connections in real time with people and brands all over the world. The connections are immediate and public. That combination is unique and is changing the way brands communicate.

What's lacking right now is the way companies connect its overall marketing to its social media presence. That's why everyone talks so much about Starbucks, Dell or HBO when they actually do something like this.

Since you can access social media from any connected device, like laptops or cell phones, it's surprising that we don't see more marketing that connects fixed and dumb media (think billboards, taxi tops, truck siding, or products like cups, hats or food wrappers) to social media.

Think of all the McDonalds paper wrappers people open up to eat their burgers. For most people its garbage. How many of those do they produce each year? Imagine if there were something fun you could actually do with those, connecting to Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare?

How about if billboards and truck siding encouraged you to do something on social media and you received rewards for acting? In that way, social media could make ignorable media worth participating in.

Now I know that some of these do have response mechanisms. But they broadcast: "Everybody look at this and call this number of visit this Web site." It's not immediate, and it's not public. That's where the fun of social media comes in and that's where the difference is. McDonalds burger wrappers might be a stupid idea, except when you can see that other people in the restaurant participate at the same time you do. Then you've built some unexpected and sometimes odd connections. But they're usually pretty fun and memorable.

Every company has a ton of fixed and dumb (that is, it can't speak) media. It's time to teach your dumb beasts to speak and create dialogue with your audience.

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