John Bell On How Social And Mobile-First Will Challenge Marketers And Agencies

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Say it, “SoMo-First.” I know, sounds weird and jargon-y. It’s a phrase destined for Wired and Tired list eventually hitting both sides. Still, it means something important today, and will really challenge marketers and agencies in the next five years.

Mobile First
Usage patterns of mobile devices, from cell phones to smart phones, tablets, and even intelligent objects like my car dashboard, have exploded. We all know the data that says that mobile access of the Internet is eclipsing PC access. That doesn’t mean just small
experiences and interfaces. It means people accessing the Internet in all sorts of new contexts and new places. Sure, it might mean a mom looking up the health and nutrition story of a box of cereal while standing in the grocery aisle. It may also mean checking the LinkedIn endorsements for a new sales rep who just walked through the door.

If mobile is the primary way people access information, then the usefulness of that content and how it’s delivered must be agonized over. No more plopping it on a Web page chock-a-block with content deemed critical by many departments in the company. No more thinking about mobile as a channel to deliver the “big idea.” Mobile must become the big idea, or at least, it must become the ideal platform to deliver the experience.

When we design a content delivery system and platform strategy, mobile comes first. It helps us distill the functionality that will matter most to the user. We will often also have an adaptive design Web site not just for users accessing through bigger devices like PCs, but also for Google search “juice.”

Social First
What we call “Social” is also becoming a primary part of people’s lives. In a world of information overload, we rely on human filters for practical and useful information. We trust our “strong ties.” We discover new, relevant products or ideas through our “weak ties.” We look to our social graph to corroborate marketers’ claims. There is a new, enhanced relevance for all forms of word-of-mouth, from product reviews to consumers sharing their experience with brands and fans pushing out content on Facebook. It’s not realistic to think our growing reliance on friends, family and social connections will dissipate. Can you really imagine that an era of institutional trust is right around the corner?

Brands know this, and are building social efforts in all of their marketing and communications efforts. The Fuqua School of Business (Duke) estimates that marketers will spend 10.7% of their total marcom budget on social media practices in the next 12 months. Still, most are doing this as an additive channel approach. It’s time to put social at the heart of our
communications strategies.

Does this Change Us?
How does this change marketers and agencies? For mobile, it moves the creatives, technologists and behavior professionals to the strategy table. Not the mobile strategy table, but the overall strategy table. Same is true for the social strategists. And since few great strategies are created by 10-20 specialists, each representing legitimately important specialties, sitting around a table, it’s time to make the mobile and social experts the key strategists and creatives for the entire campaign. That’s a lot easier to do in small agencies.

The argument that “everyone” in the agency is mobile and social just doesn’t fly. The myth of platform agnosticism is just that a myth. As consumer behaviors change and the technology that enables them races forward, we need specialists who are thinking about these changes all of the time, to help guide new creative solutions. I am not even sure we will ever get to some idealized state of executional agnosticism. It implies that there are people driving creative and strategy who can grasp a wealth of choices, emerging and established. Perhaps one day.

The Idea Always Comes First
Most modern marketers would argue that no matter what, the idea born from insight comes first. Of course. But as we explore how that idea comes to life for people, we ought to focus our energy on social and mobile first. We must understand how we can be helpful to them throughout their day, no matter where they are. And if word-of-mouth, with all its potent personal endorsement, is critical to building profitable relationships with customers, then we had best ask ourselves how any communications we set out to deliver earns people’s attention and their advocacy. And we ought to do it first.

John Bell is the Global Managing Director of Social@Ogilvy, the world’s largest network of social media and business strategists, whose work includes developing and executing enterprise social media strategy for brands like the Ford Motor Company, Nestle, IBM, Coca Cola, and DuPont – including work winning a Silver Lion at Cannes. Follow John on twitter @jbell99

Brady Hahn

Founder, Insight Collective


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