He who shares, wins

When dealing with those marketers still sceptical about the power and importance of social media, one of the easiest ways to explain its value is to talk about word-of-mouth. The idea that social media is, at least in part, the everyday conversations about the products and services people use writ large has become commonplace, and it leads into the three key ways marketers now see for using social media/ listening, influencing and co-creating.

But what comes out very strongly in this issue of Digital Strategy is that there is another process at work that can be hugely valuable to marketers, and that is people’s propensity to share things online. Sharing has always been important – viral marketing as a channel only exists because people like to share content with their friends – but as a couple of our features show, two factors have made sharing more important than ever. These are the rise of social media and mobile.

As our feature on viral marketing explains, social media has dramatically increased the reach of virals. In the days of email, someone might share a piece of content with five or 10 people. By putting it on their Facebook page, they automatically share it with all their friends. The same point is borne out in the case study about Ubisoft’s review programme around its Your Shape Kinect game.

Of course, mobile and social media are now inextricably linked. Facebook now accounts for more than half of UK mobile internet usage. But that’s not the medium’s only contribution to increased sharing. As Andrew French of Epiphany points out in our mobile search viewpoint, sharing on mobile is even easier than on a desktop PC. Add that to the fact that people have their phones with them at all times, and it’s a significant combination.

Even when there’s no content involved, people’s propensity to share can still work to marketers’ advantage. As Philip O’Ferrall of MTV mentions in our Strategic Play feature people sharing their scores in multiplayer online games is a powerful tool for promoting those games.

All of this leads to the idea of creating advertising that is meant to be shared. In the days of the dotcom boom back in 2000, The Cluetrain Manifesto told us that “markets are conversations”. Now we know that advertising, too, is about conversations, and not just between brands and customers. In order to tap into the conversations that are carrying on all over the internet all the time, marketers need to create content that will create conversations. In practice, that means it needs to be something that people both want to share and that they can share easily.

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