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Branding on the Inside: Advertising on Social Networks

Aug 30, 2008
Everybody knows that the moving image is the most powerful communication tool the world has seen, but it's power to influence, inform, entertain and to sell is growing ever stronger as life moves online.

What giant leaps this communications tool has taken since its advent in the 1890's. From early 'Nickelodeon' theatres, to cinema, through television, to the internet, mobile phones, video games and beyond. How different the world today is to the world that gave birth to stuttering moving images little over a century ago. Then moving images astonished merely by virtue of their mechanical simulation of natural movement.

Once people would cue up, merely to see themselves 'immortalized' on camera as in the films of pioneering film-makers like Mitchell and Kenyon. Now anyone with a mobile phone can record simple video and upload it to youtube and 'immortalise' their friends ill conceived freestyle dance experiment.

This interactivity is key. Society today is not just fed, and feeding form visual mass communication, but more and more society is part of those images themselves. The 'virtual' world is where people, in societies with the infrastructure, choose to live. Gone are the village fetes, church-going, weddings, and funerals which were once the glue that held small communities together. Now these communities are international and the glue that holds them together is also international. Music, photos, and video shared online.

80% of UK homes now have a high-speed broadband connection, not to mention all the public services such as cafes, schools and libraries also offering wi-fi access. The internet has become almost as necessary in the developed world as the electricity on which it depends, without it government and business grinds to a halt. This very ubiquity means that - as books, cinema, TV have been transforming influences on the previous generations the internet - is where people live today.

Some argue that this a a great leap forward, an evolutionary shift. That this interconnected world means a greater understanding of ourselves, and what links us all. A chance to end poverty, end war. Today we have the ability to watch edit and distribute moving images in our pockets and we can all share our image of ourselves. We are all reflections of our greater humanity.

But as an advertiser you know that this kind of sublime power can only be harnessed effectively if used ruthlessly for personal gain.

We exist among a blur of billions of fast moving images. Our brains are trampled by stampede of media messages everyday from every corner. We wade, neck deep through a pungent slurry of advertising 'choices'. But as the artificial visual environment has become richer, human beings have evolved to ignore the vast majority of the images surrounding them. This is the true evolutionary leap - indifference.

So what messages stand out from the visual clamour? How do companies and organizations communicate their messages in this highly competitive market? How do we take such a massive market and reduce it into our own little patch of grass?

The answer lies in knowing, and 'respecting' your audience - and knowing where they spend their time. Where is their life? People are socialising, working, consuming online. If you know where they are 'living' - what websites do they visit? What things interest them (ie - what do they type into google or youtube?). If you offer your audience something they actually want to see, where they want it, then you will be rewarded - with trust.

The Internet is now the perfect medium for relaying video messages to audiences, instantly and worldwide. This is not the 'junk mail' trick of knowing somebody's name and printing it on a form letter. This requires a genuinely sophisticated approach - you really need to know this audience and they need to trust you. You need to give them what they want. In return they will trust your messages.

The pros of 'taming' these niche audiences are obvious, because rather than feeling as if your company is annoyingly pestering consumers with a service that they do not wish to receive, you are given the gift of targeting a specific market that is actually interested, plus your intended audience is working on their own schedule, looking for what they want, when they want it.

Once you have crawled inside your audience there are unlimited ways for your influence to grow, like a benign tumour. Encourage them to sign up to updates, so they'll opt-in to receive more 'cool stuff'. Before long they'll be swilling down advertising disguised with a tiny amount of highly targeted entertainment.

And don't forget your own employees. Where do they live? Are they your friends? If they are going to check their facebook account every 4 minutes at work then you should be present there too. There is no reason that your executive broadcasts, training, customer testimonials and conference and exhibition videos shouldn't be transformed into something new, exciting and visually stimulating by involving your staff, and the new technology they love.

This world is changing and it is important to consider now the world of tomorrow and how companies and customers will transform with the pace. Trade fairs and conferences are slowly losing their grip as the speed with which we pedal through life becomes more rapid. It is becoming more and more evident that corporations are going to have to evolve to stay in the game, as more and more smart companies join up and lay their own innovative cards on the table.

The big players all know that and are pulling no punches. Craig Fister CEO of Videocorp PLC, advisor to many major brands, in an interview with New Hard Times magazine gives his take on the situation:

"Before the internet we only had access to people's eyes and ears via their living rooms. That was enough for us to suck out their souls, and we did that."

"Then came the internet and social networks. Now the internet is like a needle that lets us get inside our consumers, into their bloodstream. Now we can move around inside them and look for that soul-less void we left and put up our billboards, right there."

"Billboards saying 'We can make it alright again. Buy more of our stuff, it is environmentally friendly now, and you can buy it with one click.' It is brilliant - it is branding on the inside. I can sell anything to anyone now- just let me make friends with them on Facebook first."
About the Author
Maria Fuchs-Alcox has had a distinguished and colourful career as actress, singer, filmmaker and cultural blographer for www.wiredvideo.net - Video Production, London, UK
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