Hey Agency, the Web is Social

The Web: Connectivity & Utility

The current state of the web, beyond pages, is an ecosystem of services/applications that promote connectivity and utility. This follows the evolution of social computing-- moving from singular, contained activity to shared (collaborative) and portable activity (portable= the ability to access data from any device, not just from the device on which the data file was created and in turn the ability to access data from any app, not just the app in which the file was created).

The key elements of this connectivity are the content we create and the personal data we store and share via social technologies. This elevates the internet economy from "eyeballs and clicks" on pages to the buzz-concept of "consumer engagement"-- the user journey within applications and across the Web. As so precisely explained by Forrester, this shift has occurred due to:

"Easy connections brought about by cheap devices, modular content, and shared computing resources are having a profound impact on our global economy and social structure. Individuals increasingly take cues from one another rather than from institutional sources like corporations, media outlets, religions, and political bodies. To thrive in an era of Social Computing, companies must abandon top-down management and communication tactics, weave communities into their products and services, use employees and partners as marketers, and become part of a living fabric of brand loyalists."

All sounds like a big "duh," right? But it is surprisingly difficult for digital agencies to understand the technology trends that are and will fundamentally impact their business. As the idea that "the Web is social" permeates the digital agency world, digital strategy will have a complete new approach. "Social media" won't be an al a carte offering or afterthought, but rather central to digital strategy. Social media isn't social media...it is the Web. What then happens to all of the social media strategists? It becomes a question perhaps of agency organization-- some will continue as horizontal strategists, others depending on expertise may filter down into other areas-- be it analytics, web dev, etc.

The bottom line is that as the Web continues to evolve, all digital strategy will be inherently "social"-- there will not be a distinction between a digital marketing strategy and a "social media" strategy as the latter term is absorbed into the mindset of digital agencies as simply being "digital strategy."

Of course this puts more pressure on teams who are currently working on tangible engagement metrics and delivering what ROI means within the social web.

Think that "engagement" metrics are just marketing hogwash and that it just affect agencies?

For online publishers this is a huge issue-- getting agencies to spend their client's dollars on your site is going to rely heavily on delivering against these new engagement metrics. Recently a friend with a prominent music blog mentioned how some advertisers were complaining about a lack of click-though rates on the site, nevermind that their advertising content on said site is completely widgetized and that millions of readers/users interact with that ad-laden widget everyday (both on and off the site itself). The point isn't click-throughs, its about that interaction/involvement/intimacy-- ie "engagement" with the brand via the widgets. Both the agency handling the ad buy and the advertiser themselves need to be educated on engagement ROI. That the conversation is still about click-through rates is evidence that we have a long way to go in educating both the industry at large and our clients. To start, we might do well to start looking at ourselves in the mirror and repeating..."the Web is social, the Web is social..."

Am I wrong? Lets have at it...


Anonymous said...

Amen to that, saved me some blogging. Gave some thought to the metrics around these behaviors.
Engagement (attention + action) and how they may be viewed. looking at ROI and other untold metrics around social media campaigns and what of that is actionable. trendrr.com

mikemookie said...

back to the age old question, how do we quantify engagement? and furthermore, how do sites like your friends start monetizing it in for advertisers so they can buy against Engagement instead of Impressions? agencies and advertisers asked about CTR b/c that is how they measure success against what it is they buy, impressions. its just as much the web properties responsibility to define metrics that force advertisers to put value (read: $) against engagement as it is the agencies.

MST 1948 said...

@mikemookie good point and to that, we are working on quantifiable metrics for engagement-- there are plenty from trackable interaction behaviors from media views/streams, uploaded media, comments, posts, time, time to activity, etc. my point is that its not just up to the agencies to educate clients on this, but publishers have to get on board and start understanding their content in this way (and therefore sell it as such)....i know at least for my friend's site advertisers don't actually buy against a CPM or CPC rate, but rather a flat monthly rate which is interesting...

Macartisan said...

Our agency, an office of one of the big traditional ad firms, has over the past year moved from 'better animated billboards on the Web' to some quite serious brainstorming about advertising in an attention+reputation world.

Our chief problem at the moment is that both we and our chief clients have built a nice tidy assembly line (both organizational and conceptual) around 'animated billboards on the Web'. Same goes for the (perceived) best hosts for web advertising.

The problem as I see it with all the marketing strategies that are taggable as Engagement is that they all require one particular thing: PRODUCTS that are designed to engage and delight their owners.

Obviously, this is not something that the majority of companies are capable of providing.

You can get isolated groups of otaku obsessing over the merits of the latest pile of plastic and buttons shoved out of some Shenzhen sweatshop, but you don't build broad-based audience engagement unless your client has the chops to do truly wonder-full work.

BTW, for a wild ride out that-a-way, with a heaping side-dish of building engaging stuff, see Bruce Sterling's Shaping Things. More discussion via Google.

Matthew Daniels said...

Great post. Now, if only we could determine what those engagement metrics looked like..