Our friend Nick Burcher, Head of Products / Partnerships EMEA at Publicis' VivaKi, drew me a diagram last time we caught up for coffee outlining his social media world view, which he's since written up. I think it's a valuable perspective (although there is something missing, which I'll come to below):
Traditionally marketing efforts have focussed around 'The Destination.' Ad space is bought to push people to a main site / microsite and this could be anything from Paid Search to TV to Print. It's all about 'go here now!' There is a direct correlation between ad spend and 'Destination' traffic. Generally increase in ad spend = increase in traffic and decreasing ad spend results in decreasing traffic.
This is changing though. New 'Destinations' are being created, it's no longer just a main site or a microsite. Facebook Fan Pages are being used as an activity hub with paid ads driving traffic. Alternatively the Destination could be a YouTube channel or other social platform.
The social web is also providing new traffic driving opportunities eg Facebook Engagement ads, sponsored Diggs or socialmedia.com social banners but the biggest change to the internet landscape though is the emergence of 'The Conversation.'
Web 1.0 was a one way street. Users went to a site and consumed information and advertisers served messages somewhere along the way. The publisher published, the consumer consumed, the advertiser advertised . On the social web the distinctions between these three areas have all blurred and changed marketing forever.
If advertisers can successfully participate in the Conversation then it becomes less about paid pushing. The Conversation is about engaging rather than broadcasting, and if done successfully it changes the equation. Instead of having to pay to recruit every visit, consumers can be co-opted as brand ambassadors who then will freely relay the advertiser message with consequent Destination traffic the result.
Activity targeting the Conversation needs this 'kickstart' to give it initial momentum. This is where new disciplines like blogger outreach and video seeding come in. This is where marketers need to think of taking content to the consumer, rather than expecting consumers to come to them - and make it easy to share using 'Blog This' buttons, Facebook Connect and more.
Nick is right to point that it's no longer just about ad spend, that Destinations no longer need to be microsites (if they ever did), that the Conversation is about engaging rather than broadcasting, and that traffic can flow from the Destination to the Conversation. But what the model doesn't take account of, is the fact that it's the Conversation, not the Destination, that's important, and that in some cases there doesn't need to be a Destination.
The Conversation itself sometimes can fulfill your business or marketing objectives without reference to a Destination, creating demand by driving awareness, consideration and/or engagement through far-reaching word of mouth - whether that be through simply getting the product into the hands of bloggers and generating reviews, through viral seeding where the vast majority of the video views happen out there in the conversation cloud or through a myriad of other ways.
More progressively (and effectively), you still have a Destination, but it's designed to facilitate, support and amplify the Conversation, and success is measured not in traffic to the Destination, but in the reach, sentiment and engagement with the Conversation itself.