5 Minutes With Brian Oberkirch

From Brian’s website: “I’m a marketing consultant focused on social media and product/service development. Like It Matters is my personal blog where I write about social media, community-based marketing and technologies that revolve around relevance.”

Door Number 3: What brands have had the most success at using social media as a marketing tool?

Brian Oberkirch: I think brands that are “of the Web” (as opposed to merely on it) have fared much better and done some really interesting things. Threadless, Etsy, Make Magazine. Probably because they don’t conceive of social elements as mere distribution channels for messages, but instead make organic community connections part of their product strategy and not a low level comms tactic. All that said, some big brands have failed and then gradually found their way using social media. Dell is a great example. Wal-mart may be another in the making. Failure is to be expected & embraced. It’s a different way to market. I wrote up some of my observations about companies & blogging (Living on the Edge: Blogging in the Real World) and drew up a list of company blogging methods (How Companies Blog).

Is the push to incorporate social media into an advertising campaign coming more from the ad agency’s end-client, or rather from the agency itself in an attempt to explore new media?

I think everyone is looking at diminishing returns and reduced impact of traditional marketing tools and thinking there must be something else. I think agencies are less than creative when it comes to grasping and exploring these new tools for the simple reason that they were built to do something entirely different. I actually see it as much more a discontinuity than an evolution. Firms will have to tear themselves down and rebuild accordingly. As will individual marketing peeps.

Do you think the new advertising capabilities on social media sites are becoming annoying to users and perhaps chasing them away from places that were originally created for self expression?

We’re already seeing that ad clickthroughs on social networks are horrible. Like almost not worth it. Why? They don’t add value. Instead, they subtract value. The onus is on people like us to do a better job bringing brands to people. And that really means our old tools may not map. So, the answer is “yes,” but it’s almost to be expected as we look for ways to do this. I like the way Dogster brings the right kind of sponsors in the right ways to add to their service. They balance community, brand partners, and their own self-sustainability pretty well.

Is advertising driving any innovations in terms of hardware/software/web technologies? Or is advertising simply trying to catch up and adapt to technologies being created by a community of users/innovators?

I may be the wrong one to ask about this, as I tend to think of advertising people as being hopelessly out of it when it comes to the Web. Again, there are tremendous opportunities to do meaningful marketing in the light of all the information discovery tools, collaboration environments, community hacks, etc. But mapping inherited modes of advertising aren’t going to get us there.

The traditional model of advertising as a one-way conversation is waning, yet we sense that both general users and advertisers are still somewhat uncomfortable with this new relationship of being “equal.” Do you think this could be a generational issue?

That and it’s a user education issue. The social Web is relatively new. Think about the time it took to acclimate people to online commerce habits. No one would question the reality of that market now. So yes, marketing is starting to convulse under the range of new pressures (only some of which have anything to do with technology), and we’ll be in flux for a while. Flux makes us uncomfortable, but we’ll see tons of experimentation and creativity. Out of that will come the next Amazons, Ebays, Googles, etc.

What excites you most about attending SXSW this year?
Being around all the people who are crazy, go nuts passionate about building the Web. You just get a great vibe. Like we’re all in this together.


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SXSW is an Austin event. And Door Number 3 is an Austin advertising agency. We're interested in how new ideas in advertising, media and branding will be presented during these 9 quick days. From inside the lecture halls where top specialists present their thoughts, to out on the streets where advertising is put to the test on tens of thousands of festival-goers. We'll be there with the complete coverage, reports, photos, editorials, and perhaps some tricks on how to sneak into a few sweet afterparties.

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