the transformation from audience to community

With almost 2 decades of experience in advertising, old habits can be hard to break. When talking with clients, I catch myself saying words like “audience.”
The web, and in particular social media websites (facebook, myspace, gather, eons), is causing us to re-think (or re-state) the word “audience” as it relates to awareness forms of advertising.
Taking a step back, because I have the bad habit of using industry, let me explain the 2 traditional types of advertising; awareness and direct response. A TV ad is an example of awareness advertising. Direct mail is direct response. You laugh at the Geico TV ad and it makes you aware of a value proposition. You reply to the Geico mailer to save a little extra on the ol car insurance. Each form of advertising has value. Awareness is tough to track. Direct response can be measured easily.
Historically, as a result, direct mail is the largest form of advertising by dollar volume, because often shortsighted business owners invest all their eggs in the one basket that the perceive is most-effective. In fact, spending on direct mail is bigger than TV, radio, billboard, web and all other forms of advertising combined.
Consumers want content. Companies want consumers. The smart companies, like Geico, spend more heavily on awareness forms of advertising, and as a result they get BIG. Dan’s Carpet and Mattress Store, who spends 98% of his budget on direct mail, never gets big.
So that’s how it works….historically.
And along comes the web, then the advent of new media and in 1995, social media hit the scene.
Now awareness forms of advertising start merging with direct response. And its a beautiful thing, especially for those early adopters. And the Fortune 500 has even taken notice. According to Comscore, the 500 largest companies in America will spend 28% of their ad budgets on new media in 2008.
And despite Facebook alone penetrating 27.1% of the total US population, companies, for the most part, can’t figure out how to leverage this “new stuff.”
There are several reasons; a few quick ones.
1) They don’t get it.
2) They still don’t see value in it.
3) Mainstream media is losing ad revenue to web, so it fights back with the ubiquitous “Be afraid of MySpace” stories.
4) Community. Companies are still looking at consumers as an audience, rather than a community.

Can you imagine trying build a community using ValPak? or yellow page ads?
Communities are built using tools like the web, events, experiential marketing, social media and the like. BUT, it is not as simple as entertaining an audience. Building a community requires connecting people in various ways.
An article I read back in April that gives more detail on is Building An Outline Community.
I’ll find more and post later…the work day is upon me.