Nicholas Pell
Feb 3, 2012

Web, social and mobile: The future of marketing

The Internet age has changed the way we buy products. Nearly every industry has adapted to the new paradigm. While movies and music were slow to come around, recent developments like Netflix, Spotify and Hulu show an entertainment industry in flux. Still, with all the talk of “Web 2.0” and “Internet marketing,” some have lagged behind when it comes to promoting products online.

Advertising online has finally surpassed traditional forms of advertising in terms of dollars spent -- or at least it’s projected to for 2012. As people increasingly eschew old media (television, radio and print) for new media (Web, social and mobile), the fact that it’s taken advertisers this long to decisively migrate is somewhat surprising. Even more surprising is that “blue chip” companies like Proctor & Gamble have been quite slow to catch on.

The strangest part of the slow migration is that, in many cases, advertising and marketing on the Web can be free. Nowhere is this more true than the social web, where a company Facebook page requires literally nothing in the way of extra spending. Companies can set up a page for free and can even have social media maintained by an intern, provided that they follow the relevant law. While this alone isn’t likely to maintain the sort of high-profile brand image companies want, it is an increasingly large part of how companies advertise and market products.

One important benefit of Internet and social media advertising is that it allows companies to connect directly with their customers. Rather than throwing a bunch of advertising and hoping that enough of it sticks, companies can focus in on their target demographic like a laser. This makes social web advertising far more like direct mailings than anything else.

Curiously, to anyone who has ever thrown out a pile of junk mail, direct mailing is still considered an effective means of selling products. However, this study was based on subjective ideas of marketing professionals. Far be it for us to question their profession, but this could easily just be a case of wishful thinking on the part of direct mail marketers. Think about it this way: Have you ever bought something you saw advertised via direct mail? Now what about something that you saw advertised online?

People are using the web for more than just emailing and chatting with friends. As stated above, increasing numbers of people use the web as their primary means of consuming media and acquiring information. For example, many people under 40 don’t watch television in the traditional manner of sitting down at a certain time for a certain show. Rather, they watch their favorite shows on Hulu or Netflix. Perhaps the less scrupulous ones torrent entire seasons of television at a time or watch on sites like VideoBB. Internet-capable televisions are also a hot new product on the consumer tech market that cut out the middle man and allow you to watch the web right on your TV.

Apparently this market has a lower tolerance for advertising than its old media counterparts. Mashable reported that Internet users say that anything longer than 15 seconds is too long. This puts greater pressure on advertisers to get their message across in a concise fashion when it comes to advertising on social video and through audio. Further, some services, such as Spotify, allow users to opt out of ads entirely by paying a nominal monthly fee, far less than what a person might pay for premium cable.

In the final analysis, social web marketing and other forms of new media marketing aren’t a silver bullet. Rather, they provide both new opportunities and challenges. For example, one of the most promising parts of new media marketing -- the ease with which companies can market to a niche -- still presents the challenge of finding out who that niche is and where they use the Internet. One thing is certain, however: As the public increasingly uses the web to consume media, companies who fail to move significantly and decisively onto the web will fall behind those that do.