Top Social Insights from Advertising Week 2012

«We're moving from a world where we plan campaigns for the future to one where we adapt campaigns in the moment.»

-Dick Costolo via Twitter

With more than 200 different events, featuring some of the most highly regarded minds in the industry, the task of distilling all my thoughts from Advertising Week 2012 down to a few fundamental takeaways was not easy. In any case, here’s what I’ll remember from the October 1st – 5th Advertising Week in New York City.

1) Social media is humanizing brands.

More than ever before, brands are talking with consumers not at them. It is important to find a voice that is both authentic to the brand and respectful to consumers. Twitter is a platform that is being utilized by brands wanting to engage consumers in dialogue—it is the canvas on which major brands are painting their digital likenesses and projecting company cultural values. Smart Car recently responded to a critic who tweeted “Saw a bird had crapped on a Smart Car. Totaled it” by tweeting a witty infographic (see below) detailing exactly how much bird crap it would take to crush a Smart Car. This simple yet brilliant response received a lot of positive press, cast the company in a cool and playful light, and presumably cost only a few man-hours. Talk about an incredible return on investment! Plus, the social media world now knows that it would take 4.5 million pigeons to total the car.

2.) Native Advertising is unobtrusive yet effective.

Native Advertising is advertising that is built into the design and embedded in content. As a consumer, advertising shouldn't be the obstacle you have to navigate around to get to the content you really want to see. For brands, it can be highly targeted, integrated, and even entertaining. It can be part of the media consumption experience, seamlessly blended into the content. Social giants Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr have followed Google’s lead by rolling out contextually relevant advertising. Advertising should add value, not disrupt consumption. This is going to be key to the success of those social platforms that choose to provide opportunities for brands to execute native advertising campaigns into channels where the consumer experience is valued so highly.

3.) Social media enables brands to achieve "scalable intimacy."

Individuals can express what they care about socially, and brands can respond quickly. This is giving brands new insight into what their clientele cares about. Aligning corporate social responsibility initiatives with issues that are near and dear to your customers is one of the best ways to build brand loyalty. Starbucks has gained a lot by marketing themselves as a sustainable and responsible brand. Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, knows his customers are willing to pay more for products they feel good about consuming—this is why products like Ethos water can fetch a high price.

4.) Design for mobile first.

There are 1,000,000 Tweets every two days and 60% originate from a mobile device. Mobile-friendly social content has a much higher share rate and greater viral potential. Designing for mobile is more difficult given the visual constraints of portable devices. The best way to tailor to mobile is to make sure the experience and content you're creating can first live in mobile before figuring out how you will extend it to other touch points. Amex says they now design everything for mobile first. Facebook is one company whose lagging mobile strategy has hindered company performance. Facebook is now focused on understanding and improving the mobile experience, as evidenced in the recent overhaul of the Facebook app suite.

5.) Social "experimentation" is key.

As I listened to a wide variety of speakers from some of the biggest brands on the planet, one thing that came through loud and clear is that you need to experiment with building different socially engaging experiences.  And you have to experiment with social advertising too.  Sabrina Caluori from HBO was very frank when saying that she doesn’t know the “exact” ROI of her investment in social media as it is still a very new space, but that it is and will continue to be a critical part of HBO’s marketing approach.   That theme was echoed in many presentations.  After all, brands that find ways to experiment in involving their audience (not just focus on push marketing) will learn which experiences have the greatest impact on their business.

What did you pick up at Advertising Week 2012? Let us know in the comments below.

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