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!