From the place of social media in a global communication device

With more than 3 billion users worldwide, no one is questioning the importance of social media as a vehicle for transmitting information or distributing content. However, even with more than a decade of practice, I still see many (too) advertisers who simply duplicate their TV or paper campaigns on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. This leads me to think that many professionals cling to a clearly outdated model of communication. In this article, I propose to take stock of communication practices and how they differ but complement each other from one medium to another.

A Paid-Owned-Earned model that is almost 10 years old

Last week, the syndicate of Internet boards published the latest version of its study on the advertising market in France: 19th edition of the Observatory of the e-pub SRI, conducted by PwC, in partnership with UDECAM. This study highlights a reality that we already know, but that the market is obviously very hard to admit: TV is no longer the medium of reference, no more. With a market of more than 4 MM € for the year 2017, up 12%, digital media are very clearly favored by advertisers.

The reason for postponing advertising budgets from traditional media to online media is simple: money goes where consumers spend the most time. More than an advertising arbitration, this change marks the end of an era: that of media and mass distribution/consumption. This new media landscape naturally imposes a new model of communication.

In fact, reflections around a new pattern of consumption began many years ago, particularly with the tripartite model theorized by Forrester in 2009: Defining Earned, Owned, and Paid Media.

If we can only recognize the ingenuity of this model, which has made reference, it is clear that it is no longer really adapted to the current media landscape. Try to put yourself in the context of the times: the iPhone 3G had just been launched and MySpace was still cash machine. In 2012, I published an evolution of this model: From the maturation of the digital media mix to the time of social media.

We are in 2018 and practices have evolved so much that it has also become obsolete: the media owned and earned are atrophied, while the shared and the paid merged. The uses of social media have therefore evolved enormously (see Panorama of social media trends in 2017 ), as well as that of the media in general with a net decline in TV, especially among young people: 15-24-year-olds no longer only half of their video time watching linear TV.

Infernal pace imposed by digital media

The problem faced by traditional media such as advertisers is that thanks to smartphones, consumers are now permanently connected and exposed to a continuous stream of content of all kinds. In this perpetual flow, one information chases another. Just last week, we were treated to:

  • riots for Nutella jars on sale;
  • camels cheating on a beauty contest;
  • stations of the RER C closed because of the flood of the Seine;
  • RER D users who need to be cooled;
  • baboons escaping from their pens at Vincennes Zoo …

With so many news circulating on social media and generating innumerable conversations and hijackings, how do you expect traditional advertisers (insurance companies, laundry, car manufacturers, telephone operators …) to get their messages across?

Very clearly, we have reached the saturation point, shouting louder than the others will only add to the cacophony. In other words: do not try to replicate the traditional media communication practices on social media (repetition), it would be not only counter-productive but also expensive ( ‘Organic reach on Facebook is dead’: Advertisers expect price hikes after Facebook’s feed purge ). It is, therefore, necessary to adapt the communication practices to the media and their specificities.

Complementarity of the media to maximize efficiency

Until about ten years ago, it was necessary to choose between the power of traditional media (able to broadcast an advertising message to millions of people in a very short period of time) and the accuracy of digital media (especially campaigns of targeted emails or keywords). The problem was that a barrier separated these two media, the digital barrier. Devices have been well tested to link the media in an offline (short URLs broadcast on TV, QR codes on magazines …), but to no avail. Today the situation is different, because 3/4 of consumers are equipped with a smartphone, and that all users have installed Facebook or Instagram. The omnipresence of social media in the daily lives of consumers makes it possible to consider advertising journeys using several types of media :

  1. an offer is exposed to the greatest number on the traditional media (TV, radio, press …);
  2. this offer is relayed on social media to specific targets (those that have the best chance of transforming or are already in the base of the advertiser);
  3. the offer is staged in different ways (depending on the specificities of each social platform and the interests of the targeted members), but with a unique anchor (the hashtag);
  4. The advertiser’s accounts and official profiles lead prospects to mini-sites and online stores for action (or feed a PRM database for further processing);
  5. once the purchase is made, customers are loyal to media where they spend the most time (social media), in order to extend the relationship until the next purchase.

In this scenario, the hashtag is used to bridge the gap between traditional media and digital media. Social media occupies a central place in the daily lives of consumers, it is the preferred medium to increase the scope of an offer (coverage), to engage targets (through open questions or devices that promote interactions) and to improve proximity to customers (regular contact points).

The goal is not to replace traditional media, but to have a holistic approach to different forms of communication :

  • advertising (supply-oriented);
  • affinity (based on the focus of the targets);
  • transactional (favoring efficiency);
  • relational (focusing on satisfaction and loyalty).

Certainly, this holistic approach requires moving from a perfectly controlled communication (content, formats, dissemination …) to a malleable communication (adapted to targets and media). And that’s where it usually gets stuck: advertisers are not quite ready to deny decades of controlled communication, fixed, to adopt more flexible practices (eg: to use a network of micro-influencers to distribute an offer by entrusting them with adapting the message according to the relationship they have with their audience).