Social Media is taking over the web…


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… but shouldn’t you be doing more on your own sites?

What’s your strategy to “engage the millennial generation” (or any other generation for that matter)? Is it all about your website? Apps? Social media? Interactive TV? Augmented Reality?

Whatever your plans, there is no doubt that you need to follow the people and, millennial or otherwise, they’re all spending an awful lot of time on their cool new smartphones. And they’re spending a lot of that mobile me-time on social media.

So the chances are, you are looking to social media as one of the first points of interaction with that mobile audience, and in particular, those tricky millennials…

Facebook’s success in mobile display advertising in the past couple of years (see their US figure below) is indication enough that a lot of brand time and resources is focused on starting the brand journey within social media. And according to the results and many metrics, it works pretty well.

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Facebook is starting to dominate in the US and has a growing hold in many key developed markets, even against the mighty Google with their dominant position in search.

So, what’s the problem? Social ad display works to drive traffic and transactions and they have the best metrics and performance.

Well, for brands, and particularly content publishers, there are some pretty fundamental risks in focusing on this strategy. For example, the goal of some social media platforms is to remove the need for individual publisher websites entirely.

As Walter White of Breaking Bad fame said, at the moment the acid-bath-guy fell through the ceiling… “There’s that”.

Evan Williams is a co-founder of Twitter, a blogger and now CEO of Medium, a new form of publishing platform. He said: “Websites are in about the same place as dinosaurs were at the tail end of the Cretaceous Period 65 million years ago. Which is to say, about to go extinct.” And according to Forbes, he “knows a little something” about this.

But, before you get too perplexed, he only appears to be talking about content publisher websites, like news organisations, magazines and bloggers. So, unless you work with one of those (and probably quite a few of you do), no need to worry.

The argument goes that only the aggregator publishing platforms (like social media) will command large enough audiences and social context to generate sufficient income to be sustainable. Individual publishers simply will not be able to build critical mass, particularly with current ad formats, to sustain themselves.

Let’s not forget that Evan has a vested interest in promoting this view, but surely the more we focus our efforts and resources on those social platforms, the more data dominant they become and the more likely it will be to come true. And that doesn’t just impact the content publishing website owners, there’s more…

The largest social media players are beginning to withhold access to key data from third parties, so that only they can provide the most detailed targeting needed to successfully target mobile audiences. This piece from Matt Marshall at VentureBeat  highlights some of Facebook’s recent changes to force advertisers to work only with them if they want to best target audiences. It’s pretty obvious really, and if you or I were in Facebook’s (or the other global social media’s) dominant position, we’d do the same. And then we might even put our prices up.

So, there’s that too.

With increasing time, money and user data heading their way, it stands to reason that they will be the only ones to maximise the advertising and direct marketing revenue to be earned from those users, especially via Smartphones.

Do we just accept it and join the party, or should we do something about it? I, for one, am extremely uncomfortable about the global internet super-brands increasingly dominant position. I believe that there must, and will, be alternatives. And I am not alone.

Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google) points out in his truly outstanding post “Digital Marketing & Analytics: Five Deadly Myths De-mythified!”, that, we should all focus far more on our own resources (websites and apps) than on rented platforms.


He provides a detailed explanation of why using our own website resources for customer interaction is the best route to help those people “think” about your products and services and “do“ things, like buy them. He also points out the added benefit of social channels for “seeing” new things and making people “care” about them. But, overall, he believes the current focus on “rented” over “owned” platforms make little sense and the balance needs to be re-addressed.

We at iadbox agree and see in crystal clear HD the advantages of doing more of your customer interactions on your own site, such as:

  • You own relationships
  • You own data
  • You control privacy
  • You own the content
  • You present it the way you want
  • You have no limits to creativity

Don’t agree? Agree, but don’t know how? Don’t know what to do next? Don’t worry. You can carry on focusing on the global social players, as no one gets fired for doing that. And then just wait to see what else happens, cos something’s bound to turn up…

Unless, of course, that thing comes crashing through your ceiling when you least expect it…

There’s that.

John Roberts
Managing Director at iadbox, expert in mobile telecoms and marketing/advertising. @johnmroberts

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