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The end of digital and social media

The end of digital and social media Rebecca Lieb

"Digital media" will soon be a redundant term. Increasingly, all media are digital. Once a term reserved for the internet only, "digital" now embraces your phone, television, more and more "print" media (e-readers and tablets), radio, and out-of-home channels such as in-store kiosks and digital signage.

"Social media" is another term that is rapidly approaching the tautological. The more media are digital the more they're social -- either inherently or increasingly -- and linked into a myriad of social networks and social applications that facilitate sharing, commentary, and discovery.

Media is driving social, and social is driving media. This is as true offline as it is on the web. Consider, for example, Twitter's recent acquisition of social TV analytics firm Bluefin Labs. Then there's the recently launched UK channel, 4Seven, that only broadcasts the programming proven to be the most socially popular with viewers. Each program is introduced by a broadcast of viewer comments about the show, positive and negative.

Brands and media organizations must adapt to meet consumers anywhere they might be at any given moment on the dynamic customer journey. Consumers flit between screens, devices, and channels like hummingbirds. Messaging will slip between the cracks if it doesn't have hooks into social, real-time, and multiple channels.

How do you cut through the clutter of media, messaging, and a ridiculously busy social life spanning all channels, digital and otherwise? There are six traits that matter. Employing as many as possible -- in concert -- will greatly enhance a brand's ability to be noticed in a relevant and meaningful way. In no particular order, these are the traits:


Think Oreo's brilliant graphic, "You can still dunk in the dark," tweeted out during the Super Bowl. This one little tweet arguably garnered as much -- if not more -- attention that the millions of dollars other brands spent creating spots and buying air time. And it was all hinged on an unforeseen, yet highly visible, event. In countless interviews with content creators and social media executives at large corporations, I've heard time and again that news or current events-driven content is what resonates most and garners the highest engagement. Oreo wasn't the only brand to leap on the blackout during the game, but it did it the best -- and had the most resonance.


Well-timed and thought out interactions don't happen by themselves. The above-cited Oreo campaign was the Twitter equivalent of a well-timed quip from a Letterman, Leno, or some other master of a specific media channel. In a real-time environment, finding and investing in talent is critical when smart, funny, incisive, or critical has to be pithy, on-point, and on-the-fly.


Real-time (or near real-time) means you don't have time to send it to legal and wait until next week for a response. If media happens in real-time, organizations must loosen the bonds of approvals and chains of command, invest in trust, and let ideas and conversations happen.


Well, no one said empower just anyone! Earning the power to be empowered requires that trust be earned, and there's no better way to earn trust than with training in media best practices, communications do's and don'ts, not to mention a thorough understanding of the brand and campaign. Triage processes must be put into place to help communicators determine what to respond to, and how. Social means letting go, but you can fly with a net.


This year it was Twitter. Last year, Facebook. Next year's social channel(s) could be something we haven't even seen yet. Flexibility and agnosticism are key. Customers are fickle, not to mention the fact that different segments cluster around different channels. You won't find the same audience on Reddit as you will on Pinterest. Marrying a specific channel for communications is tactic at the expense of strategy.


Measure, count, and measure again. When media campaigns are undertaken, it's generally with some goal that can be measured, no matter how abstract (e.g., increase leads, increase qualified leads, improve reach, improve brand sentiment). All of these things can be measured, and if you start with measuring a baseline element, you'll have data to go on to improve results or optimize.

Get these six points right and you'll be ready to operate in media. That's media-period, not digital, social, or traditional media. Because now, media is the only word that matters.

Rebecca Lieb is an analyst, digital advertising/media, for Altimeter Group.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Mature woman pulling funny faces" image via Shutterstock.

Rebecca Lieb has published more research on content marketing than anyone else in the field.  As a strategic adviser, her clients range from start-up to non-profits to Fortune 100 brands and regulated industries. She's worked with brands...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Osman Bangura

2013, February 18

Hello Rebecca,

Great Insight into to the changing landscape of media and marketing technologies. Indeed, these days, everything is becoming digital and every single offering want to be socially connected. The success of marketers/brands will depend on the extent to which they are able to rapidly adapt to this changing environment. You chose a nice an interesting topic for your article; however, instead of the end of the 'digital and social media', i see it as the evolution of the two. They are rapidly evolving, giving new meanings and interpretation to what the two constitute. Its like the emergence of 'New Media', media is not replacing traditional media, instead, they converge. Similarly, new characteristics will be added to what is now called 'Digital, as well as 'Social Media'. This is a grand evolution of marketing technology.