Posted March 30, 2009 2:37 pm by with 5 comments

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Advertising Age has an interesting position in the business world these days. The publication is sometimes representative of the old guard. I ad-age-logoremember at PubCon in Las Vegas where that point was made in a video that Rance Crain, AdAge’s editor-in-chief, was shown saying that Blendtec simply needed to take out print ads to accomplish what was done with its “Will It Blend” campaign. Ouch. He didn’t appear to be on top the one of more impressive stories of the social media marketing age.

In a story from Ad Age today, however, there are some interesting thoughts to consider regarding the real power of social media and how marketers should react to it. For those of us who hang around the industry it may seem like we are really on top of everything that is going on. Apparently we are but in a much smaller universe than we may like to think. In other words, if the Twitterati and all the other social media “leaders” screamed at once at the top of their keyboards about anything the sound wouldn’t reach oh, about 90% of the world.

For instance, it was reported that when the mommy blogger army was upset about ads run for Johnson and Johnson’s Motrin they brought J & J to its knees. In a way they did because the ads were pulled. Further research from Lightspeed Research shows however that 90% of women had never seen the ad and once viewed:

  • 45% liked the video
  • 41% had no feelings about it
  • 15% didn’t like it.
  • 8%, said it negatively affected their feelings of the brand
  • 32% who said it made them like the brand more

Not exactly the kind of numbers you might expect given the “outrage” of the social media world. So was J & J premature in its actions to pull the ads? Did they give too much power to too few voices? These are the kinds of questions that marketers will be faced with when making decisions about the real impact of social media “buzz”.

Remember the whole hubbub about Skittles and their daring campaign? Well, it seems like that may have looked big to some of us but most of the world didn’t know or even cared if it happened. At Communispace which has a pretty tech savvy group for its make up, only 6% of 300 people surveyed knew about the Skittles deal.

“The data is a really compelling reminder that a lot of our target consumers are not the people who are sitting on Twitter freaking out over a packaging design that they don’t like,” said Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace. She added, “These are people online, having conversations, and yet they are totally out of the loop on stuff us marketing junkies love to obsess over.”

The article does go on to say that it is not a good idea to ignore small groups of impassioned people but it may not be in a marketer’s best interest to scream “How high?!” when someone in the Twitterverse yells “Jump!”.

Ms. Hessan summed it up well by saying

“Listening doesn’t mean getting one small piece of data and taking action,” Ms. Hessan said. “Sometimes it means getting a piece of data and probing further.”

So what is Pilgrims? Is this social media thing more important to those who work in it directly or indirectly than it is to the vast majority of the world? What is the real impact of the social media movement? Most importantly, as marketers how do you measure and respond to the voices? How do you tell who they really are and how many of them are really out there and what influence they have at this early stage?

I’m sure there are more than a few opinions out there. But will we hear you?

  • Of course it is more important to those who are using the media. Social media aint important until the outcry is published in printed media. Newspapers are still better and still have a lot more impact than social media and probably will have for quite some time.
    And on a similar note most people do not use social media. With all the hoopla Twitter has gotten how many people actually use it? Same with Facebook. Is registering an account the same as being active and involved with all the crap that is published and discussed?
    Does your target market even use social media? And how large percentage?

    But whatever hoopla that is going on in backyard that is the social media the age old advice “Think first act later” is always good to follow.

  • Jeff Anderson

    More evidence of the “echo chamber” that is Twitter and blogs. It’s easy to feel like everyone is on Twitter when that’s all you monitor all day.

    Don’t forget that 99.999% of the entire world lives outside yours.

  • Scott Bauman

    Thought you should know that Diane Hessan and her colleagues at Communispace just started a blog called Verbatim. Check it out for more insights into this topic and more around listening –


  • Definitely, social media has specific target audience; making contents more powerful.

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