Wednesday, 23 September 2009

My presentation to #Adtech London - 'The Destination and The Conversation'

I'm speaking at the Adtech London conference today on a panel called ‘The shifting rules of engagement in digital: Blogs, UGC and online communities – how are they changing the way people engage online?’ The other panellists are Kevin Anderson ( Blog Editor, The Guardian) and Bob Buch (Vice President, Business Development, Digg).

To introduce myself and my thinking I will be presenting a single slide that illustrates the mechanics at work in the new web - I call it 'The Destination and The Conversation.' This is posted below and highlighted with further comments and examples.

The Destination and The Conversation - my slide for Adtech London
(click for larger image)

The Destination

Traditionally marketing efforts have focussed around 'The Destination.' Ad space is bought to push people to a main site / microsite and this could be anything from Paid Search to TV to Print. It's all about 'go here now!' There is a direct correlation between ad spend and 'Destination' traffic. Generally increase in ad spend = increase in traffic and decreasing ad spend results in decreasing traffic.

This is changing though. New 'Destinations' are being created, it's no longer just a main site or a microsite. Facebook Fan Pages are being used as an activity hub with paid ads driving traffic (see TGI Friday's Fan Woody or Dance Flick.) Alternatively the Destination could be a YouTube channel (as seen with T-Mobile karaoke) or other social platform.

The social web is also providing new traffic driving opportunities eg Facebook Engagement ads, sponsored Diggs or social banners but the biggest change to the internet landscape though is the emergence of 'The Conversation.'

Web 1.0 was a one way street. Users went to a site and consumed information and advertisers served messages somewhere along the way. The publisher published, the consumer consumed, the advertiser advertised . On the social web the distinctions between these three areas have all blurred and changed marketing forever.

The Conversation

The democratisation of tools of production and distribution mean anyone can create and publish. The emergence of social platforms means anyone can get an audience for their thoughts and content. The Conversation is therefore about the mechanics of sharing.

If advertisers can successfully participate in the Conversation then it becomes less about paid pushing. The Conversation is about engaging rather than broadcasting, and if done successfully it changes the equation. Instead of having to pay to recruit every visit, consumers can be co-opted as brand ambassadors who then will freely relay the advertiser message with consequent Destination traffic the result. Thus when people talk about 'going viral' what they actually mean is 'successfully harnessing The Conversation to drive incremental attention / site traffic.'

The mechanics of participation are therefore different to those of 'traditional advertising.' First and foremost it's about having a great idea / great content that has a talkability factor. Susan Boyle didn't become a global superstar because she is necessarily the best singer, she became a star because of her story - people were touched by what they saw and wanted to share it - as Ashton Kutcher wrote when he tweeted the Susan Boyle link 'this just made my night.'

With 20 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute, with millions of blogs vieing for attention and thousands of tweets a minute there is a huge opportunity, but a kickstart is needed to cut through the clutter. If your ad campaign consists of a single one page ad somewhere in a 300 page magazine it may not get much attention. Creating something for the social web is akin to running a single ad in a magazine with 100 million pages!

Activity targeting the Conversation needs this 'kickstart' to give it initial momentum. This is where new disciplines like blogger outreach and video seeding come in. This is where marketers need to think of taking content to the consumer, rather than expecting consumers to come to them - and make it easy to share using 'Blog This' buttons, Facebook Connect and more (see the new H&M catalogue for a great example of this.) But most of all creating Conversation and gaining social amplification can start offline as well as online - Susan Boyle was watched by 10 million primetime TV viewers BEFORE her performance was uploaded to YouTube.

The critical thing is doing something to create Conversation. This could be anything from:

- an event or stunt (like T-mobile in Trafalgar Square or Peugeot's naked people in London)
- tactical / unusual executions (like Ryanair's print ads or the Ann Summers search activity around The Budget)
- an application (like Carlings iPhone iPint or the BK Whopper sacrifice)
- a competition (like the Best Job In The World or the Mitsubishi bit torrent treasure hunt)
- product innovation (like the upside down Tango or Burger King's Flame perfume)
- special offers or exclusive coupons (like the Dell Outlet Twitter account)
- a bespoke community around a particular them (eg BMW's Chinese Driver club)
- or it could just be great content that people want to share (like the Evian babies video or the Morgan Stanley social media report written by a 15 year old)

Participating in The Conversation fuels traffic to the Destination and the more people who visit The Destination, the more people talk about it and so on. If the 'kickstart' has been successful then things become self-perpetuating, with all of this contributing to increased SEO and Search Engine presence - the more The Conversation grows, the more it will be seen in Natural Search results.

Once The Conversation hits a certain point it then becomes newsworthy in itself and gets picked up by bloggers and mainstream media alike. Susan Boyle was singing from her kitchen on American TV because she was a YouTube star not because she did well on Britain's Got Talent.

(One word of warning though. Once you've started there's no going back. Participating in The Conversation is a long term commitment. There's also no way of putting things back in the box if you have a change of mind. Visit Denmark may have removed the Karen26 video from YouTube, but they can't remove the duplicates, the parodies and the blog / Twitter comments........)

Finally, brands don't have to participate in The Conversation directly to gain value from it. Listening tools can be used to track buzz, consumer opinions and positive / negative sentiment. The Conversation therefore provides a rich vein of real time, focus group type feedback that can inform insight, creative, strategy, product development, staff training and more. Social Listening can also be used as a crisis early warning system.

At VivaKi we power this thinking through a collection of partnerships and offerings that we have brought together in the 'REAL Social suite' (with the REAL being split out into offerings that Reach, Engage, Amplify and Listen.)

More information about the REAL Social suite EMEA can be found on the VivaKi website here:

More information about the REAL Social suite USA can be found on the Vivaki website here:

Related posts
#REALSocial - the launch of the REAL Social suite in EMEA

Like this post?
Then subscribe to regular updates from this blog -
click here to use a Reader or click here to get email updates


Anonymous said...

Yes, Susan Boyle became famous rapidly because of the internet, but sorry, it's her voice more than her story that's keeping her popular and will continue to do so.

Nick Burcher said...

My point is that without social media amplification I think it unlikely that Susan Boyle would have been such a big name in the US. Social channels made her famous and brought her to attention but social alone can't keep her front of mind. She is now at a point where if she can deliver then she can maintain the momentum, if she doesn't then she might fade away just as quickly. Social took her to where she is, but her talent is the thing that will keep her there.

This is also the challenge for marketers using social - eg you can get lots of Facebook fans, the hard bit is keeping them engaged afterwards.

Tim Dempsey said...

Nice. Linear was then (destination). Now it seems a brand or vendor needs to manage three aspects simultaneously, dynamically: presence (where you need to be to be found); authority (what position you occupy or value you assert); and reputation (what the surrounding communities say in response).


Harpreet said...

Rightly said Nick. You can add case of Bruno: Sacha Baron's latest failure which failed largely due to Twitter. Here is a link which provides a nice analysis on this case: