Social Media. Is it the end of Gender Based Marketing?

If you hadn’t noticed, our media climate generally provides a much distorted mirror of our lives and of our gender, and I think that’s going to change massively as social media and advertising continues to evolve quickly. Most media formats, television, radio, publishing, games, you name it – they use very rigid segmentation methods in order to understand their audiences. It’s old-school demographics and we at Mammoth also have to play by the rules when designing and producing media plan driven campaigns for the above channels. It’s a massive part of the marketing driven world we live in. I always though found it slightly presumptuous that companies believe that if you fall within a certain demographic, then you are predictable in certain ways – you have certain taste, that you like certain things. And so the bizarre but very real result of this is that for the last 80 years or more, most of our popular culture is actually based on these presumptions about our demographics.

All the people who participate in social media networks belong to the same old demographic categories that media companies and advertisers have used in order to understand them. But those categories mean even less now than they did before; it’s much easier for us to escape some of our demographic boxes. We’re able to connect with people quite freely and to redefine ourselves online. And we can lie about our age online, too, pretty easily. We can also connect with people based on our very specific interests. We don’t need a ‘media company’ to help do this for us.

I always though found it slightly presumptuous that companies believe that if you fall within a certain demographic, then you are predictable in certain ways – you have certain taste, that you like certain things.

We know, along with all other media agencies worldwide that this is the mass audience of the future. But everyone is having a hard time doing it because they’re still trying to use demographics in order to understand them, because that’s how ad rates are still determined. When they are managing your clickstream – ‘and you know they are’ – they have a really hard time figuring out your age, your gender and your income. They can make some educated guesses. But they get a lot more information about what you do online, what you like, what interests you. That’s easier for them to find out than who you are. And even though that’s still sort of creepy, there is an upside to having your taste monitored. Suddenly our taste is being respected in a way that it hasn’t been before. It had been ‘presumed’ before by traditional media.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while as I am a big advocate of behaviour based marketing, not demographic based and that’s where social media helps break the norm. So when you look online at the way people aggregate, they don’t aggregate around age, gender and income. They aggregate around the things they love, the things that they like, and if you think about it, shared interests and values are a far more powerful aggregator of human behaviour than demographic categories. As an advertiser I’d much rather know whether you like Chinese food, horror movies and ski holidays in France rather than how old you are. That would tell me something more substantial about you.

It’s a Woman’s World

If you look at the statistics in every single age category, women actually outnumber men in their use of social networking technologies. And then if you look at the amount of time that they spend on these sites, they truly dominate the social media space, which is a space that’s having a huge impact on old media. The question is: what sort of impact is this going to have on our culture, and what’s it going to mean for women? If the case is that social media is dominating old media and women are dominating social media, then does that mean that women are going to take over global media? Are we suddenly going to see a lot more female characters in cartoons and in games and on TV shows? Will the next big-budget blockbuster movies actually be chick flicks?

Well, that’s going to be the case. I think women are actually going to be – ironically enough – responsible for driving a stake through the heart of cheesy genre categories like the “chick flick” and all these other genre categories that presume that certain demographic groups like certain things.

I firmly believe that if you want to understand the global village, it’s probably a good idea that you figure out what they’re passionate about, what amuses them, what they choose to do in their free time. This is a very important thing to know about people. The vast and growing volume and influence in social media and user generated content is enabling this to become a reality.

So imagine a digital world that isn’t dominated by stereotypes about gender and other demographic characteristics. I can’t wait to find out what it looks like and the signs show that it’s already starting.

social media olympics

Why I’m Tired of the “Social Media Olympics”

So, right now the world is caught up in Olympics fever and most of us will, or will have at various times settled down onto our sofa’s and assumed our roles as cut-throat judges and highly qualified experts in a variety of athletic specialties, including me. Nothing has changed over the years. Before and after the Olympics were televised or on radio, those lucky enough to see or hear the action live or recorded thought and said exactly the same things, though largely to the people they were with at the time.

But what’s the most extraordinary difference between this year’s Olympic Games and those from years past? Well, we no longer have to limit sharing our brilliant scoring or athletic critiques to those stuck with us in our living rooms. THIS year we are using a plethora of social platforms so we can connect with other fans and share our opinions about who deserves what. In fact, this year we can even follow our favourite athletes as they post in real time, too. Awesome.

It’s not Awesome…

Personally, as a fan of social media and also of the anywhere, anytime content strategy that inparticular the BBC has magnificently executed – I feel that misuse, overuse, or perhaps a better term “erratic” use of social media by athletes and observers is more of hindrance to my enjoyment of games than a help. Here’s why.

Gaudy Caps

I’m not a fan of the overshares by the athletes on Twitter and I have now un – followed the majority that I only recently followed less than a week ago. The height of Michael Phelps’ commentary for example during my ‘3 day’ twitter following period, was that the Olympic Swim caps are ‘gaudy’. My perception of Phelps has now changed. He to me before ‘attempting’ to engage with him on Twitter was the image of a top athlete, record breaker, an inspiration to millions, the greatest Olympian ever. He is still all these things of course, but to me and a I imagine a good few others, he is now also a bit boring. It’s a shame because he probably isn’t, but his Twitter content doesn’t do him justice.

There’s boring and then there is just inappropriate. Athletes are doing themselves no favours it seems and for me it takes away the status and super – human mystery behind top athletes when not only are they so open, but they damage their own and sometimes other’s reputation.

For you too reading this, no matter who you are in business, what you are selling, sharing or commentating on via social media, just be aware that the world and more importantly your customers are watching, you must stay true to your brand and the image you wish to maintain.

From the ill toned/derogatory tweets to Tom Daly, to the inappropriateness of US Olympics Hurdler Lolo Jones tweeting about America’s prowess in gun shooting in the wake of the Colorado massacre. These superstars need to realise that they are brands and as brands, they must protect themselves and maintain their positioning as global icons and role models.

Brand You

For you too reading this, no matter who you are in business, what you are selling, sharing or commentating on via social media, just be aware that the world and more importantly your customers are watching, you must stay true to your brand and the image you wish to maintain.

In Conclusion

To the formerly iconic, mysterious and idolised athletes who via Twitter are now showing themselves as boring, inappropriate or over-exposed, please stop tweeting, and focus on simply competing. I liked you before Twitter; when you were iconic, mysterious, superhuman and no – one, including you could convince me otherwise. You were untouchable.

To the sofa “experts” who only ever commentate and share their unqualified opinions on sport via the web for 3 weeks every four years, stop tweeting about sport. I liked it before when you tweeted about how cute your dog is, or how tasty your lunch was.

I may have made a false start but right now, I’m making a point of trying to not take part in the Social Media Olympics. I might not win any medals for my real time knowledge of who’s won what during the working day, or what Usain Bolt ordered in McDonalds before his 100m heat, but I don’t care. I’m setting time aside each evening to start really watching and enjoying the greatest spectacle on earth.

ad age digital 2012

My Experience at “Ad Age Digital” 2012

A few weeks ago I jumped on a plane across the Atlantic to New York to go to one of the highlights of the 2012 Digital Marketing Event Calendar; Ad Age Digital 2012. This 3 day event was where marketing, technology and media combined; where the biggest brands meet the most innovative start-ups and the new technologies that are transforming business.

In terms of key things to take away from the event, yes there were business cards, mints, pens, goodie packs and insight into some fast moving Digital Technology on the way. Above all of these things though, the one thing that really resonated with me as a marketer and creative thinker was that technology and innovation mean nothing alone. Of course they open up new possibilities and ways to distribute and engage with content, BUT without a strong brand, a story, and an audience that will connect with these things and share it, technology is simply an engine without fuel.

The Online Advertising Game is Changing

Digital advertising is a beast of an industry across desktop, mobile and apps. It has for a decade or more and still is being been sold, viewed and clicked on a massive scale in largely a (from the advertisers perspective) “You are on a digital platform that my ads are on, and you fit a demographic that says you might click, so I’m okay with that…” model.

One of the key aspects of the conference talked about by many speakers such as David Karp, CEO of Tumblr and Tim Ellis, CMO of Activision, was that to consumers of digital, which is basically everyone, content is what matters to us most. They talked about how there was much more activity and engagement on content driven ads for instance off the back of articles, after exposure to the brand in context to a video clip or social mention. In short it told us that users have a “Tell me something that interests and connects me to you, and then ask me to engage further, and I just might…” approach.

It’s no longer enough to have a social presence and not have content that emotionally connects with your audiences.

It really remains to be seen how long traditional online advertising will be around for. The signs aren’t good. People engage with brands and their stories and this is the traffic builder and driver behind connection to their audiences. That’s how the Nike, Old Spice and Starbuck’s of this world do it. They invest in brand and content; content that connects with their audiences and that encourages their customer’s to become brand advocates online and offline.

Emotional Media: A New Name for Social Media

So we all know that social media, along with mobile is a leading growth area in digital marketing right now. If you aren’t visible on social networks, you’re going a long way to becoming invisible, full stop. This event reinforced that fact. One of the resonating things that I was left with from the event was that social and digital engagement is increasingly emotional. It makes sense if you think about it but you have to keep reminding yourself about it when looking at digital strategies.

It’s no longer enough to have a social presence and not have content that emotionally connects with your audiences. There’s too much choice; if you don’t give audiences what they need to satisfy them emotionally, you can forget it. The internet used to be a task based platform, a place to get stuff done and find things out. Not any more…

Jonah Peretti founder and CEO of social-focused news site Buzzfeed put it brilliantly in his keynote at the event:

“Marketers and media companies need to tap into their emotional sides to understand what works. But first, they need to get beyond their bad habits formed by the portal-and-search era… We started thinking it’s a game or an algorithm when really it’s about humans and what we want to share and making things that are worth sharing,” he said.

If I saw this on my Facebook wall would I click it, would I have an emotion, would I laugh and then would I want to share it with other people. And when I share it with other people would it make me look like I’m a good person or look smart or would it make me look a jerk?

“Understanding the social web doesn’t mean [just] being smart. Too often we’ll sit in a conference room and brainstorm the smartest strategy and try to find the smartest person to figure out how to get stuff to work on Facebook and Twitter.”

“Instead it’s about “looking at a piece of content and saying, ‘If I saw this on my Facebook wall would I click it, would I have an emotion, would I laugh and then would I want to share it with other people. And when I share it with other people would it make me look like I’m a good person or look smart or would it make me look a jerk?” That is so true; every interaction in the social web is emotional on so many direct and indirect levels. That makes a social marketer’s job a very difficult one indeed.

So Finally…

Ultimately it was a great event and certainly I am aware now more than ever, that digital media and strategies will not fully realise their potential without a strong brand focus, a brand story to tell, time spent investing in content and making emotional connections that people will engage with, advocate and share.