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Many marketers think the social media windfall is about getting people to talk about their brand (called “earned impressions”), having a video go viral, maintaining a Facebook fan page, and directly responding to consumers either elated or disappointed by a brand experience.

However, social media is transforming paid and owned media too so the complete picture regarding how social media is changing marketing is much more bone rattling than most think.

Social media impact on owned media activity. Beyond direct traffic the largest source of traffic to your website or Facebook fan page is usually search. According to Google adwords, there are 4MM monthly US searches for Starbucks and 16 million searches for “coffee”, driving a portion of the 2-3MM visits per month to (according to Compete, Quantcast, Alexa). However, you will not be able to optimize search unless you master social activity as Google and Bing have each changed their organic search algorithms to include social media activity. Try it. I searched for “path to purchase” and a blog I wrote on this topic showed up fourth. On my daughter’s computer it showed up lower down. I am connected in social media to someone whose blog shows up highly in my results but doesn’t show up at all in the first two pages on my daughter’s computer. Implication: create sharable content (e.g. lifestyle pieces that reinforce brand values), offers, etc. and use sharing widgets to facilitate sharing.

Social impact on shopping choices. Yelp and Foursquare are mixtures of social and owned media. Check-ins and reviews are social activities that can persuade at the key decision-making moment. When I check in on my Droid at a location via Foursquare, I also check for offers at that retailer. If I am considering what restaurant to go to in a certain part of Manhattan, I always check reviews on Yelp. Not just what people say, but how many say it. The sheer number of reviews affects my choice of restaurants to dine at but the restaurant’s site must seal the deal.

Social media impact on paid advertising. This could be the biggest impact of all on marketing practice. What a minute, “paid advertising”? I thought social media was about getting people to talk about your brand so you didn’t have to pay for impressions. What am I missing?

Social media allows marketers to begin targeting advertising impressions based on behaviors and interests rather than just using demographics (the bluntest of targeting instruments). This is one of my suggested 6 big marketing mandates for 2012-2015. For example, Facebook offers a user’s profile of interests to serve up more relevant display advertising. You can also advertise your page to friends of those who have liked you, under the reasonable assumption that birds of a feather flock together. ShareThis classifies hundreds of millions of users each month based on their content consumption and sharing behavior across the web. This behavior is clearly indicative of both shopping intent and persistent life style interests and can be used very effectively for advertising. Social media boosts ad effectiveness as Ads can be liked, and offers can be shared as it has been shown that when a friend of yours likes an ad on Facebook, it is displayed for you and it creates additional lift to that ad’s impact.

As a proofpoint, Facebook is already a leading publisher in terms of display advertising revenues but this might only be the beginning.

I speculate it is possible that your liking and sharing behavior via Facebook Connect and plug-ins across many sites would allow them to more precisely model an individual’s interests and then using that to better address advertising across an ad network that extends beyond the walls of Facebook (hey, that’s a pun!). For example, if you sign into Huffington post using your Facebook or Google+ account the articles you read can become part of the profile of interests you hold (it already shows up publicly on the HuffPo page) and Facebook or Google+ could potentially serve advertising into inventory they have across the web. I predict that social log-in will become increasingly prevalent (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) because people prefer the simplicity of not having to remember a gazillion log-in passwords. More speculation. Imagine if Facebook becomes the way you “log-in” to view TV listings based on stored preferences when TV becomes completely digital. Facebook could get a piece of the 800 pound advertising gorilla. Google might even be ahead here with Google TV and Google +.

Social media not only creates the opportunity for owned media, it will profoundly affect paid and owned media as well, changing how marketers spend their ad budgets, away from demographics and toward interests, behaviors, and self-directed seeking.

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