What The School Dance Shows Us About Marketing

Remember what it was like when you were a lot younger (ok, so not THAT much for some of you) and you’d head to a dance at school? There are the kids who would dance with anyone and everyone. There were the wall flowers who hid along the sides. Then there were whose who really wanted to dance in the worst way (well, not DANCE badly, but wanted desperately to participate!) but didn’t really know what to do. You could almost smell the desperation. They didn’t really have the skills to engage with the kids with whom they wanted to dance but they very much were sending out the signals that they wanted to.

High school dance, 1941. Worthington (Ohio) Hi...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was reminded of that as I read about how many marketers are planning to spend a lot more money on “social media advertising.”  Frankly, I consider that an oxymoron.  Social media, to me, is about engagement and conversation and not about using a megaphone to talk about yourself.  Nielsen put out the research a couple of months ago and it found that a majority of advertisers surveyed said they are going to increase their paid social media advertising budgets for 2013. In some cases they’re cutting back on display ads and it’s always a good idea to spread the ad investment across channels.  However, I’m a believer in using the resources to support social media efforts and not to buy ads on social platforms if a brand has to make a choice.

There was an AdAge study that showed the use of Facebook Ads is to drive brand awareness more than anything else.  That’s the equivalent of hanging by the gym wall – people can see you but there’s not much going on in terms of making engagement happen.  It isn’t until we lose our fear and go talk with someone (preferably about THEM!) that the invitation to dance can happen.  When people sense that desperation it makes them think they’re the lowest common denominator when an attempt at engagement occurs, whether it’s a dance or an ad campaign.

Nielsen said this: “Advertisers are doubtful or unconvinced about the effectiveness of paid social media advertising, indicating that the growth of the medium is being somewhat hampered by a lack of relevant, universally employed metrics.”  I don’t think that’s the entire story.  I think that doubt is spurred in part because it’s a square peg (ads) in a round hole (a social setting).  It’s the desperate kid standing by the gym wall shouting irrelevant nonsense.  As marketers we need to engage in that setting if we’re desperate to dance.  Chat someone up – see if there’s compatibility.  Maybe even dance a bit.  Who knows where it can lead.  Standing by the wall yelling “I really want to dance with someone!” isn’t going to work.  At least it never did when I was at those dances many years ago.  How about you?

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Filed under digital media, Growing up

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