Part 3: Never has the Internet seemed so relevant to so many
But only social media hipsters in East London share this much information, right? Wrong. It’s surprising how quickly people get engaged when it’s about their real lives. We are programmed to engage in these ways, and the technological barrier is falling. Only two years ago, my dad thought I was crazy. Now he is connecting with long-lost colleagues on LinkedIn and tweeting about the media, Covent Garden and QPR, and telling other people to do the same. Never has the Internet seemed so relevant to so many.
Social media marketing can be traced back to the origins of Web 2.0 in 2004. Marketers were quick to see the potential of social media: self-organising brand advocates; viral video hits etc. There were also high-profile brand casualties, most notably Kryptonite’s bike lock that was unlocked with a biro pen and became an internet sensation. Despite these opportunities and risks, most brands carried on largely as before, while dipping their toes in the social media water. It was additive, still often used as a broadcast channel, but by no means a new model for marketing.
There is a simple reason that most brands got away with the status quo and why now really is an inflection point: the connection between our offline and online lives was not yet strong enough. Most of our lives occurred offline and few people cast a big enough “digital shadow.” The more people share, however, the more marketing is going to have to change, and the more journalism will also have to adapt to this new order. People will clearly argue this point, and also the demographic and regional variation in data sharing, but given that by 2020 the mobile phone will be the primary global internet connection device, smart marketers are investing in tools and new techniques now.
We are witnessing a rise in massive, passive datasets
The future of marketing is in monitoring and analysing “massive, passive” real-time data – i.e., listening to what the masses are saying and sharing. This form of market research has never before been possible. It has already impacted on journalism more than marketing – citizen journalism – but has significant potential for all of the media. Increased data is enabling us to construct detailed network maps – topologies – of people in relation to brands and industries, and hence understand how ideas, perceptions and behaviours spread.
If marketing in the past was about broadcasting to individuals and looking for signs that brand ideas were taking hold, it is fast becoming about understanding the multitude of networks a brand is part of, and prioritising and targeting key individuals within these networks. Using network science to map networks of influence is helping us answer pertinent marketing questions. As marketing is concerned with the spread of brand perception and behaviour, this has relevance for the spread of ideas in general, and thus journalism.
Network science may be about to revolutionise marketing, but what has this got to do with journalism? Many would see journalism as the antithesis of marketing: the reporting on real events vs the creation of ideas to change real world events. If this ever was the case (doubtful), the rise of a more personally relevant, social internet will force marketing to change. It will simply be too difficult, and costly, to spread ideas that are not true or not relevant. Marketers will focus more on the reality of their products and services, and getting these experiences to be more contagious. As such, they will be investigating a multitude of brand experiences and aggregating and promoting them. In short, they will become brand journalists.
So what can we learn about the future of journalism and the new tools that will be required? Journalism has already been severely disrupted by the Internet. The business model has been undermined, with a whole host of knock-on effects on media businesses and journalists alike. Citizen journalism has also forced journalists to justify their very existence. At the same time, micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter have been both a useful tool and a competitor in breaking news coverage. However, the same growth in “massive, passive” data can plot a path ahead for journalism. Information is all good and well, but journalism is and always has been about perspective. “Massive, passive” real-time data is helping to answer a number of key questions for both marketing and journalism.
– Oliver Snoddy, Director of Digital Services, Doremus NY