Long ago people sat around their radio to listen to their favorite radio show. They knew when it came on, and who sponsored it. Then they bought that sponsor’s products because they appreciated the radio show that sponsor produced. Then came the television. Ads made up less than ten minutes of each one-hour show. Again, people appreciated their sponsors and bought their products. This went on for close to 50 years.
As the internet grew from its roots in the ’90s, email sprouted as the new means of business communication; quicker than the U.S. Mail, and less intrusive on our time than making a phone call. Little did anyone know that email would change the way the world markets its products, when in 1994, the first email spam (a loose reference to Hormel’s canned meat) was sent, spawning the age of the “uninvited guest” into our personal space. As the deluge began, people became protective of “my” inbox. At the same time, the internet sprouted “pop-up” and “banner” ads that seemed to come from nowhere. They were intrusive and entirely unwelcome.
Respected sponsors were quickly becoming a thing of the past. Ads on radio, TV, and now email and the internet, became numerous and began to compete for your attention, and they were shunned as terribly bothersome as they spun out of control. What changed everything was the development of pop-up blockers, spam filters, and digital video recorders such as TiVo. Marketers gradually realized they had to devise new ways to get their products out there, and develop your trust in them once again.
Trust is the main issue on which social media was built. Social media became the word-of-mouth contact that was the one thing remaining that people felt they could trust. People can initiate and control a conversation, and ask their pointed questions. When they feel that they have been answered sufficiently, they gain trust in the representative of that information. The value of that trust was a pivotal part in the emergence of social media as the new advertising media of choice.
Before long it became apparent that much of social media was becoming “canned” content and gradually untrustworthy. People discovered it was just the marketers spewing out their ads to them, representing themselves as trustable consumers. This is when the owners and CEOs of companies stepped up to the plate, and miraculously exposed themselves as human beings instead of the untouchable executives at the top. They put themselves out there in blogs, on Twitter, Facebook, etc. People got a kick out of that, and respected them for it. People wanted to talk to them, to have their chance to air their beefs or praises to them. It was discovered that boldfaced transparency was the way to develop that lost trust again. When someone feels they’ve had a one-to-one, personal conversation with the CEO, they feel connected and loyal to that company, and therefore more inclined to buy their products.
The next step was the enterprising people who came out of nowhere and established themselves as respected CEOs of their own companies through social media, actually building their companies around their social presence on the web. They used email blasts (opt-in, of course), webinars, YouTube videos, seminars, blogs, etc. The next thing you knew you saw them guesting on the Today Show or the Tonight Show, talking about the wild success they’ve become!
This is where we stand today. You can go onto Twitter or Facebook and speak directly to the CEO of just about any company, find them on LinkedIn, or search for their company blogs on Google or Bing and comment on their posts. People feel connected again. They naively feel like they’ve bypassed the middlemen (marketers), who still leave that bad taste in their mouths.
So where will it go next? What should we expect now in the years to come? Tell us what you think.