When Are More #Brands Going to Get the Value of #SocialMedia?

Category: Weekly Columns

Social Media is slowly, but surely, taking a bigger and bigger piece of the advertising and marketing budgets of businesses. It has become clear that the value of reaching customers via Social Media is a great and direct method to interact with potential customers and to reach out to more and more people, period. Yet, some brands are slower than others to get on board this obvious and valuable method of PR.

New things are often met with fear. Social Media has taken the world by storm, but some advertising agencies and many in the marketing world are approaching their participation with hesitation and/or trepidation. This is natural, but those that wait too long risk losing a big part of their market share to more aggressive forward-thinking companies.

I’m experiencing this very directly in my efforts to monetize some of my Social Media efforts. It is quite frustrating. I began my work in Social Media simply as a hobby and outlet for my anger at how dads were being presented in most media. I had direct experience when I became a 24/7 single dad and found the judgments to be so pervasive and so insulting.

That led to my first columns, and grew to include my radio show, comic strip, #DadChat, and learning how to incorporate Social Media into “my brand,” and truly integrating a whole new language and M.O. (Modus Operandi) into my second career.

When my first son was accepted to The Berklee College of Music, I faced a tuition bill that literally blew my mind. College costs have risen more than ANY other big expense in the past decade – 400%. What do you think is #2? Yep, healthcare at a paltry 250%. So, I decided it was time to make a more concerted effort to monetize my work, though I was unwilling to compromise my values and larger goals of advocating for dads and making the world a better place via my efforts, if possible.

One of my first attempts to monetize involved driving my son to his new college, this past summer. I thought it’d be easy to get a major car company to lend me a car for the drive, in exchange for the Social Media I would offer. It wasn’t near as easy I anticipated. I was fortunate to know Scott Monty at Ford and we made a deal in which I was lent a new Ford Flex, in return for my doing Social Media on behalf of Ford.

However, no money was offered for this effort. That was their policy and evidently is the same at many other car companies. Part of my deal with Ford included their representatives appearing on my radio show, producing and airing commercials for them, and sponsoring #DadChat. Again, this was in exchange for the use of the Flex, rather than any direct compensation.

I believe Ford was quite pleased with my efforts on their behalf. They have subsequently acknowledged that I did much more than they expected since I did vlogs, two comic strips, tons of tweets, Instagrams, and mentions for weeks before and after the trip all over the web. Heck, my next book is inspired by the trip and features an image of the Flex on the cover!

Monetizing a successful Tweet Chat seemed a no-brainer to me. However, there seems to be a limited agenda on most brands’ minds that it’s best to do a one-time Twitter Party than affiliate with an established “appointment-viewing” sort of weekly Tweet Chat.

Again, I don’t get this? If a particular Tweet Chat reaches YOUR demographic, why wouldn’t you prefer to have that built-in audience rather than do a “one-off” Twitter Party? There are a handful of bloggers who specialize in these “one-off” Twitter Parties and do quite well in return. But, in my opinion, the right blend of an existing Tweet Chat with the right brand could and should be magic!

#DadChat regularly gets upwards of 100 participants, 1000+ tweets, and over 10,000,000 impressions each week. Often much more, depending on the topic and/or co-host. And, the #DadChat demographic is perfect for so many major brands. Since #DadChat has equal participation from moms and dads and includes primarily those families that do spend money, it is potentially a deal beyond compare to “old media.”

What does a brand spend for a prominent billboard? What sort of interaction can a billboard provide in comparison to someone sitting at his or her computer when a link passes that allows instant interaction with a brand? When someone is engaged on his or her computer, is there any comparison to the fleeting interaction to a billboard?

The answer is obvious. Brands will get it – some sooner, some later. They’ll embrace the value of “influential” social media peeps more and more; beyond the narrow ways they currently embrace us. Mom bloggers seem to be mostly involved as “brand ambassadors” and product reviewers. Some make a small business, as mentioned earlier, from hosting one-time Twitter Parties.

But, how much more can we do if given a bigger paintbrush to work with? In my case, I can offer a brand a cornucopia of new and old media opportunities that together reach a huge number of people. And, I can do such a campaign at literally a fraction of the cost of one prominent billboard.

Sometimes, I feel I’m banging my head against a wall with brands and Social Media reps. Sometimes, I feel they’re as stuck in their ways as any old “Mad Men” type of advertising traditionalist. My job – the job of all of us who love and work in Social Media – is to educate them in the true value we bring the right product with the right person and brand. I’m trying. I’m really trying!



  • http://twitter.com/BillDraeger Bill Draeger

    I’m not clear on how a sponsor would be integrated into a tweet chat.  Can you give an example on how that might work for a brand that could be interested in participating in #DadChat?

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Bill, brands are already sponsoring Tweet Chats via the Twitter Parties I mention in the article. They get MUCH bang for their buck via the participants following them on Twitter (for which they pay per new follower in some cases), immediately going to their web-site, and having DIRECT interaction with the brand if they have a rep present at the chat. The cost-return is incredible. It IS the wave of the future…it’s just slower in coming than I wish!

  • ginavalley

    It’s hard for many people to stop riding their dead horse.  Companies being made of people and bureaucracy confounds the problem.  Smart brands will come around quickly.  And, very smart ones will jump at the chance to hook up with the cool folks on #DadChat. 😉

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Agreed. I finally gave up on the car companies and bought a car yesterday – exactly what I wanted!

  • http://www.schneiderb.com Brendan Schneider

    I completely agree with you and feel that schools, my main audience, are equally slow to embrace social media and it’s benefits because of ignorance, lack of expertise, and a fear of the unknown. The brands that ‘figure this out’ first will definitely have a jump on the ones that don’t.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      At least schools have kids attending them and THEY “get” it! LOL…

  • http://twitter.com/Ascending1 Ascending Butterfly

    Monetizing blog efforts will always be difficult so long as (new) bloggers who don’t really know better and have a frame of reference keep doing for ‘free’ what more experienced bloggers won’t. The brands don’t check the demographics like they should and just go with the ‘cheaper’ ahem ‘free’ option. Your digital site could be garnering way more impressions than the print publications monthly numbers and most brands will still go with television first, radio second, and print third and will continue putting digital and social media last despite it’s ever growing popularity and more organic conversations. Sad But True.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Well put, Ms. Butterfly…TY for the comment!

  • krusecontrol

    Wonderful piece, Bruce. You are certainly not alone in your frustration with the adoption of Social as a marketing too. Ford has done a good job compared to some of the other car manufacturers but there is still a lot to be learned. Training, education and information sharing is how they’ll get there. I’ve been in automotive retail my whole life and if the manufacturers don’t start providing solid information to themselves or to the dealer body, no one will move forward. It’s a sea change and ignoring it will not make it go away.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thanks Kathi. I finally gave up on making a REAL deal with a car company or big dealer and bought a car yesterday! At least I got exactly what I want, but a car company could’ve given me a “free” lease that would cost them next-to-nothing and gotten so much PR for it – multiples of whatever cost of the lease. I did it for FORD with the Flex and they acknowledge they got more than they expected. All they expected was a blog or two and a some tweets. There’s so much more WE can offer and that I can offer…Oh well, hopefully I’ll still be doing SoMe when THEY finally get it!

  • http://rickladd.com Rick Ladd

    Nice piece, Bruce. I came across this because I do a little bit of social media marketing for a dealership and one of my Google Alerts grabbed your post. I spent the last 10 years of my career at a major rocket engine manufacturer struggling to get the organization to embrace social media internally and, after retiring in 2010 due to the effective end of our manned space program, thought to try my hand at providing social media marketing services for small businesses.

    I finally pretty much gave up because the money wasn’t enough to overcome the heartache. My experience is most people can’t make the jump to seeing social media as anything more than a time waster. Either that, or a magic bullet. I’ve had people I clearly warned needed to give our efforts at least a few months get cold feet after two weeks, when new business didn’t come rushing through the door with buckets of money.

    Anyway, fortunately I’m old enough to collect Social Security (Yes. I’m a parasite) and a modest pension from my former company. My wife and I adopted two girls from China (they’re now 11 and 9), so full retirement is actually out of the question for another decade, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I believe I’ll have to pay attention to what you’re doing a little more closely, as I’m sure you and your following have a lot to teach me.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Boy, do I relate and UNDERSTAND Rick! Great that you adopted those girls – beautiful thing to do and it will keep YOU young! Thanks for stopping by! #DadChat is a great forum for all parents – join us any Thursday from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. PT!

  • David Weber

    The technical pros and cons of using social media for marketing purposes is out of my wheelhouse. So too is having an informed opinion about how effectively, or not, various organizations are using social media for marketing and branding purposes. 

    I do know that in my department, we offer courses in the use of social media in organizational environments.  The faculty members who teach integrated marketing communication and public relations include lessons about the use of various social media platforms in organizational environments, and assign students to critique the use of these platforms in large and small entities.

    Many of my students report that in their internships they have been given the responsibility of curating an organization’s presence on the Web and in social media. 

    So at worst, I guess we can say that within the next few years, a cohort of young professionals will be entering the workforce who are tuned into the various ways social media can be used to communicate with extant and prospective customers, and who can run with the ball in developing additional approaches. 

    Something I have learned about media and technology after years of thinking about it is (a) new media and new technologies never do only that which they were designed or initally intended to do; (b) users take the platforms and tools into directions not anticipated by developers; (c) media and technology, like every human phenomenon, are balances of “good news” and “bad news”; (d) a technology never lives up to the “better angels of its nature” except when it does…!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I just hope when those students enter the work-force, that they are MORE creative than the ones there now…it is shocking to me how narrow-thinking much of the “community managers” are in Social Media jobs/brands/companies!

  • Pingback: One-Half Billion, as in “B,” Impressions at #DadChat | Weekly Columns | A Dad's Point Of View | www.BruceSallan.com()