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Managing Marketing: Is Social Media a Technology or a Media?

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Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

George Hawwa is the Growth Director of Social Media Agency Attention Experts and he shares his view on the various social media platforms of the 250 platforms currently available. He talks about how understanding the algorithms and the data of each platform is essential in achieving marketing success in any platform and how consistency is more important than creativity. Plus distinguishing the difference between a technology company that sells advertising or a media company based on a technology platform.

You can listen to the podcast here:

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues of importance to marketers and business people everywhere.

Today I’m sitting down and having a chat with George Hawwa who is the growth director at social media marketing agency, Attention Experts. Welcome George.

George:

Thank you very much, Darren. Pleased to be here.

Darren:

Attention Experts, it’s a terrific name because isn’t that what everyone is trying to achieve?

George:

Exactly, so hence the name.

Darren:

Because people talk about an attention economy; we are competing with the attention of our customers aren’t we?

George:

Pretty much yeah, if it’s anything like business politics, whatever you look at it’s all about attention and how can you attract attention. The one that has the most attention wins at the end of the day, so in itself attention is a commodity.

Darren:

The last couple of weeks I’ve been to a few marketing conferences and everyone keeps talking about the shorter and shorter attention span however someone will always point out how the same people with an attention span of a goldfish are also binge watching 8-10 hours of the latest Netflix aren’t they?

George:

Short attention spans but a velocity.

Darren:

Or is it sometimes they are not willing to put their attention into poor quality content?

George:

Perhaps.

Darren:

It’s an issue for advertisers because we hear all the time advertising is becoming harder and harder to get people’s attention.

So what do you think is the benefit of social media?

George:

Well the best thing about social media is that it’s like watching TV or going past the billboards, above the line marketing but you can store the data of everyone that looks at it or touches it or engages with it and that’s the attraction as a marketer to use social media.

I can create databases of anyone that engages with that piece of content.

Darren:

What do you mean by engaging? Scrolling past it in their feed or actually stopping and looking at something?

George:

When they click on it, when they visit a Facebook page, when they watch a video for more than 3 seconds when they visit your website or social media content, we can store those people into a database.

Darren:

So, George lets go back a step. What do you see as social media? Are we talking about paid social or all social? Are you more the social side or media side of social media?

George:

It’s all social because social media in itself is both your organic and paid and they can’t work without one another. The algorithms in all the platforms especially with the big algorithm changes Facebook made in January last year were really to combine organic on the page and social together to create a score for a personal profile or a business profile to then extend their reach as well.

The issue you had with Facebook before was that when they were doing just paid only and not concentrating on organic their content turned to rubbish and what it lead to was lower engagement activity on the pages.

So Facebook had to change all that and so have all the other platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.

Darren:

It’s interesting that you should put it that way because I do remember when Facebook went from almost purely organic to heavily paid. In fact the only way any brands could get any sort of reach into the platform was if they were paid.

George:

Right, it’s a pay to play space.

Darren:

And of course anyone in media can tell when you do that, when you fill up the platform with paid ads it’s not going to be very good content is it?

George:

No and that’s what happened. In 2017, Facebook, I’m talking about Instagram and messenger and so on, got to a point where you are just getting buzz fed, you are getting click bait and fake news, all paid marketing to you that had no real quality or relevance to you as an audience member.

Mark Zuckerberg ended up getting this feedback and ended up doing a listing tour round the world to about 15 different countries and sitting in auditoriums with people and saying, what do you think?

He got all this feedback that was like we hate Facebook at the moment because it’s crap the content we are getting, so he had to change everything.

Darren:

It’s funny isn’t it because the story about Facebook is all about connecting communities and yet it’s almost like in rushing to commercialise that especially after the IPO they then immediately went down the path of advertising.

George:

Absolutely. You throw in a few stakeholders in there and then company values at half a trillion dollars and all of a sudden paid becomes the most important part of your platform.

So he had to wrestle that back and him being the founder doesn’t mean he has full control of the company but he controlled what he could and that was the news feed side of Facebook.

Darren:

Well I think he has got preferential shares as many of the technology companies have.

George:

Right.

Darren:

He’s probably got more control over Facebook than some of his shareholders who have got more shares.

It’s interesting because there seems to be a new social media every couple of months. I’d say the latest for me is Tik Tok. Everyone seems to be talking about Tik Tok.

What do you think about that? It would be a challenge for you guys keeping up with it? It must drive marketers crazy trying to keep up with it.

George:

It’s really interesting, there are over 250 social media platforms at the moment with over 3 million active users per month

Darren:

Wow, how many?

George:

250 so you’ve got everything from industries like gaming to human resources all having their own platform. There’s one here in Australia called Gamema. It started about 3years ago by a couple of Australian guys who have just reached 4 million active users a month worldwide.

So there’s a lot of platforms out there that you’ve never really heard of but what I’m interested in is the business side, so how can we create ROI off these platforms.

The way I’m looking at Tik Tok right now, is it’s another SnapChat in that disposable income is sitting at a lower age group, a lower demographic and they have no real business platform for it so am I taking it seriously right now? Not necessarily. If they could bring out an infrastructure for business it would be amazing.

Darren:

I think you are right, there’s definitely a younger demographic using it and certainly posting on it but you are starting to see older people on there. The other one is the older male stalkers that are on there because every so often you see a Tik Tok young woman saying things like, ‘hey all you old guys over 30 stop hitting me up I’m only 17’, it’s a bit weird actually.

George:

I agree.

Darren:

But you think that will evolve as SnapChat evolved?

George:

In my observation not really. You had the issue where Facebook tried to take it over a couple of years ago as most of us know and they said ‘no’ and Instagram came out and started stories and Facebook went ‘Okay, we’ll just do SnapChat our own way’ and started Instagram stories and doubled the Instagram active users per month like in 12 months.

SnapChat since then hasn’t really evolved to a business platform where they can really give value to businesses the way Facebook can.

So Facebook’s underlying platform, the business platform that sits on the advertising, the audiences, the pixel, everything embedded in that platform is the true value of the Facebook platform.

LinkedIn is trying to go down that path. Microsoft are making some big investments in there. SnapChat not really and it’s a micro company compared to something like Facebook. It doesn’t have the resources to push it and they haven’t really come up with a solution for the way that they present content that is really tangible to a business yet.

Darren:

There’s one you haven’t mentioned that I personally think is an absolute sleeper, it’s flying under the radar and that’s Pinterest.

George:

Yeah I’m a big fan of Pinterest.

Darren:

It has people that are really passionate. The users of Pinterest are so engaged aren’t they.

George:

Absolutely. It’s massive in North America. In Australia there’s something like 350,000 active users on Pinterest but they are so engaged.

How I got involved in social media was I had an ecommerce company; a herbal tea company, it was the world’s first workout tea. We were marketing to 19 to 45 year old females and a lot of our sales were coming out of Pinterest.

Darren:

Interesting.

George:

Yeah, and Pinterest post content and organically I think Pinterest is one of the best platforms out there to make something go viral organically. The ability to repin and all that, people really get into it but it depends on the industry. You are not really going to do that as an accountant on Pinterest. If you are an arts and craft or a diet company then yes.

Darren:

Or food. Foodies seem to be very big.

George:

They love it.

Darren:

And home cooks are in enormous fashion. Look the reason I say this is because I’m one of these people that has a natural curiosity so every time there’s a new platform I always jump on board,

Pinterest, I think I was in there the year it sort of became common and I’m still getting notifications. I haven’t pinned anything since I first jumped on there but it’s amazing how active the content that you put on there can be.

George:

It goes a long way, pins go a long way, like with Amaze Tea, that business was bought off me but every so often I go in and check and they are still going in terms of posts that we put on back in 2014. Pinterest is fantastic.

Darren:

Then we have China and I’m not so sure how involved you are with the WeChat’s of the world. WeChat’s amazing to me.

George:

I find it so fascinating, it’s very interesting.

Darren:

A lot of people mistakenly think that China copies the rest of the world but in actual fact it is only now Facebook is talking about Libra and developing a currency for Facebook but WeChat basically started with a payment platform and then build a social media messaging and everything on top of it didn’t they.

George:

It’s a mutated version of Facebook and it’s in reverse, exactly how you said it. WeChat is basically where Facebook will be in the next 5 or 6 years. The only thing that is stopping Facebook is heavy regulatory environments that Facebook operates in versus China so WeChat has a lot more flexibility.

Darren:

Isn’t that ironic because you’ve just said the west has more regulations than the Chinese and yet people go, the Chinese government is heavily regulated after all this is the country that bought us the great firewall of China that stops a lot of people in China accessing the western social media platforms

George:

Like anything within China, especially its social front, it has an ability to collect social data will have a lot of freedom where in the west social data collection is seen with a lot of contempt so I think that’s the real difference when we are talking social platforms.

Darren:

Also the payment gateway that’s built into WeChat also fulfils a societal need which is it starts to eliminate cash. I mean when you are in China everyone just has their mobile phone because they can pay for anything from food on the street to virtually anything using WeChat.

George:

There’s a video done by New York Times on WeChat and how it’s used in China and it gives a scenario of a guy walking down the street. He walks up to a bike and pulls out his phone, scans the QR code on the bike, rides the bike to the restaurant where he booked it on WeChat 5 minutes ago before he got on the bike.

The restaurant knows he’s arriving because they are tracking him on the way to the restaurant. When he arrives at the restaurant there’s a picture with his name on the screen telling him what table to go to.

His meal is there waiting for him because they know he has just arrived and then he leaves the restaurant without paying at the cash register as it’s all paid on WeChat. Then he lets his mates know on the review button through WeChat how good the restaurant was. It’s such a good platform.

Darren:

And there’s a car waiting outside to pick him up.

George:

Right. A lot of people would think that’s scary but as a marketer I find that so fascinating and as long as it’s used the right way I think it is such a benefit, it’s a value ad.

Darren:

Now let’s go back as you mentioned LinkedIn and it’s interesting because it’s the B2B social media platform isn’t it?.

George:

Yeah a lot of people see it that way. We have seen success with a B2C front but yes it’s predominantly been set up for a B2B platform.

Darren:

What type of applications would you recommend using LinkedIn for B2C?

George:

A lot of high end stuff like if you are looking at fashion or Christmas gifts, things like that, niche type stuff that’s targeted at executives, professionals and so on, it does have traction there.

If someone has a personal profile on LinkedIn and you have a brand such as a fashion label that caters to a certain demographic, LinkedIn can be extremely valuable to you as a marketing platform.

Depending on the demographic obviously it can be used in a B2C context as well.

Darren:

I’ve noticed on LinkedIn whenever people start to drift from a professional or business interaction, and I’m talking not from a marketing point of view but more the interaction of people, even when people start sharing things about their children or people were treating it like a dating app, it was the Tinder of business and things like that, there is a strong reaction against that.

So I would imagine as a marketer you would have to be quite careful about the way that you are participating.

George:

Absolutely Darren and it’s really that communication style that you come into the platform with into the audiences. If you go back to let’s say your high end fashion business that’s basically tending to a high end demographic in terms of income, you wouldn’t go to LinkedIn the same way as you would Facebook and communicate the same way.

You’d come in at an angle of maybe promoting your business in the strength of it and so on and then getting the touch points of that end, collecting interest off that to then drive traffic towards yourself from a branding perspective as a business leader in the field. So an opinion leader in the area of that fashion industry. So that’s sort of a way to look at it to the B2C context.

Darren:

George, I think you have started to reveal your strategies because this is the second time in this conversation I’ve detected that one of the ways you go into a social media platform is really almost to test it to see where people are and what the opportunities are.

George:

Absolutely.

Darren:

Because you talked about the number of engagements or the number of views and before you even really developed the strategy, is that right?

George:

Well you need to test, absolutely and I’m more than happy to share, I’m very open. I’ve got a mathematics background so I look at data and that’s what I drive my strategies on is data.

So content isn’t first, its data first and content follows that so if I can achieve a certain amount of touch points or engagements of a platform using a certain communications style and I know that delivers a touch point, it’s valuable and can lead further down the funnel with that audience member, it’s definitely a starting strategy.

Darren:

Mathematics, interesting, do you also like music?

George:

Not as deeply as other people perhaps but I do like music, yeah.

Darren:

They often say that mathematicians get an interest in music because both of them are a similar language.

George:

Yeah I’ve heard that before.

Darren:

What got you from mathematics into developing herbal teas and selling them on Pinterest? That’s quite a quantum leap.

George:

It is. I actually started in investment banking; I was a currency trader in 2004. So to cut a long story short basically I was at a large investment bank while still at Uni, I wanted to go straight into the industry and then I left the industry and started an education business between 2005 and 2010.

That business was bought off me and then a friend of mine approached me to help launch a fashion label in the US. So I went over to the US to help him launch it.

Basically within a couple of days of being in New York we ended up meeting a guy who claimed to be the head lawyer of Ralph Lauren and we ended up in his office presenting him my mates jacket at his board table.

He actually was the head lawyer of Ralph Lauren, his office was in the Rockefeller Centre and we ended up in LA putting this jacket on consignment in one of the biggest men’s urban stores in LA called H Lorenzo.

Five minutes later Usher walks in, the performer and picks up my mates jacket, so the brand’s called Daniel Patrick, my mates called Daniel, so picks up his jacket, puts it on and walks out the store, performs with it on that night at the B&T music awards.

I’m like how do we tell everyone about this? I’ve got the photo of Usher wearing his jacket; I need to tell as many people as possible, the cheapest way possible.

Instagram was just bought by Facebook in 2010 and I’m like that must be a great platform, to be able to push it out if it’s got a lot of press. So I gave it a go and within 2 weeks we were in Lenny Kravitz’ studio, we were at Will Smith’s house demoing my jacket, we were partying with P Diddy and so it’s just a crazy story.

Darren:

That’s an amazing story.

George:

And that brand pushed off and that brand is now worn by Beyoncé, Lebron James. I ended up being bought out of that business and I ended up starting a herbal tea company when I came back to Australia. It was the world’s first workout tea.

I come from a rugby background, hated taking a chemical base workout supplement so I came up with a tea you can take to the gym. It’s got Braintree amino acids in it and Guarana and so on and that ended blowing up on social media, on Instagram mainly and Pinterest and the target market was 19 to 45 year old females.

I was bought out in 2016, I was being approached by Not for Profits, government agencies, multinational companies to help them with their social media, to consult them so I thought I might as well start an agency so that’s how we started Attention Experts, so that’s the story.

Darren:

Really interesting because that’s the big difference between you and other agencies is that you’ve actually done it for yourself. You’ve put your own money, your best friends’ business and everything else through that to actually prove the concept.

George:

Absolutely and when I sit down with clients I know what they are going through. Especially the SME sector, cash flow problems and so on and what their anxieties are about a campaign so I can usually say it to them before they say it to me or if they’re not going to say it I know what they are thinking.

I’ve been in a lot of scenarios they’ve been in. Where I really cut my teeth in social media was the Amaze Tea products, that company and that’s where I learnt about the data and all the mathematics around social media and how you build a great campaign using data.

Darren:

Well that’s true. When you think about it, Daniel’s success happened.

George:

Organically yeah.

Darren:

And then you had the opportunity to amplify that through social media, through Instagram right.

George:

Correct.

Darren:

Whereas the tea you were starting from scratch I would imagine.

George:

Correct, it was all launched through a Facebook ad.

Darren:

Now you said before about the numbers, the data is the starting point and yet the industry and I’m talking about the advertising industry including social media is obsessed with the content.

George:

Yeah and it frustrates the hell out of me.

Darren:

Why’s that?

George:

Because if you just go in with content only you are going to be running on a treadmill. You don’t really understand the mechanics of social media and the algorithms and so on and what actually pushes that content out to the target audience at a velocity that will get you somewhere with your brand.

So being able to put the content out as a good strategy and understanding what to do and using the mechanics of the platform is the most important part of working with social media.

You know you wouldn’t put a billboard ad on a road that has no traffic on it, it just doesn’t make sense.

The same thing with social, you need to be able to track the right audience. When I say the right audience, it’s not just about putting in the right interest groups, it’s also knowing how Facebook distributes those audiences as well or LinkedIn, how they distribute it. They don’t deliver the best quality audiences to you straight up as soon as you start a campaign.

Their real estate, like Google has real estate, its number one position and they protect that, they want the best link there to give you the best quality. Social media, its currency is engagement. It doesn’t exist without engagement so they’ve got to protect the engagement of its best audiences.

Darren:

So you’ve got to work as a brand.

George:

You have to prove yourself to Facebook before they are going to give you those best quality ones that convert properly; the high quality ones.

Darren:

When you say prove yourself to Facebook you mean prove that you are relevant, interesting, engaging.

George:

You got it.

Darren:

All of those things.

George:

You’re getting back to messages on time on your page, you’re filling out your tabs properly, your about us story, you are changing your cover photo every couple of months.

You’re on the page side, you’re consistently putting content up and you are responsive. You’re doing content that is relevant to them and it’s not just likes, comments and shares they are measuring, they are also measuring if they stop on the news feed, or if they are clicking on it or there are photo views or video views.

And then also what are you doing on the page side. Are you doing things that people are engaging with, so your CTR rates and so on are very important there? A combination of those two is how Facebook rates you. If you do that for just two weeks Facebook is not going to give you the traction because you are not consistently doing it.

Darren:

So it actually rewards consistency, it’s not just short term performance; it’s actually long term delivery.

George:

Absolutely. Mark Zuckerberg said this is in his press release last year in January when he changed the algorithm and that is by far the most important press release Facebook has ever come out with.

More importantly the data reach and he said in that, consistency is what is going to give you traction. We are going to favour people who are consistently going for relevant engagement with their audiences.

Darren:

That’s interesting. The other thing we often see from traditional marketers and their agencies is the campaign mentality isn’t it.

George:

Right, projects.

Darren:

Where they will do a burst of activity for 6 weeks, 12 weeks and then nothing.

George:

Correct and it just doesn’t work on Facebook. Like I’ve been to a number of companies and large companies where they are doing booster posts and putting a couple of hundred bucks on it or a couple of grand on one post and then they see how it goes and stop it after 3 weeks and go oh that didn’t work. That is not how it works.

With TV like any other marketing channel you need to accumulate touch points properly in order for something to work well, to get someone to a point where they warm with the brand to drive conversion. You can’t do that on a campaign three week basis or something like that; it just won’t work for you.

It’s okay to have a campaign but you need to have consistent campaigns that are back to back in order for you to have a channel that’s going to work for you and that’s how Facebook works it as well.

Darren:

So we started off the conversation talking about the different platforms. Does each platform have its own algorithm or are they largely all the same? As you said they are all about engagement, they all want to have content on there that’s going to engage their particular audience. Are some more sophisticated than others?

George:

Good question. I just came out of a meeting with someone that was talking about LinkedIn strategy, an organic strategy. LinkedIn actually poached that strategy in terms of how to push out organic posts from Instagram, which is Facebook .

So 2 or 3 years ago what you could do on Instagram was within the first 15 minutes of a post going up you start getting a group of people to like on it and comment on it and it would push out the reach.

Darren:

Because of the momentum.

George:

Yeah and Instagram, because the algorithm chain doesn’t work anymore but LinkedIn took it and have applied it on their platform. So there are differences in the algorithms between platforms however they are starting to all morph into the same thing.

Because Facebook really is the market leader, it is best practice for this thing and when you talk about sophistication, Facebook is by far the most sophisticated.

Darren:

Of the social media platforms.

George:

Yeah, so in terms of collecting data, in terms of being able to cultivate audiences and so on it’s by far the most sophisticated. The rest of them are looking at it going we are much smaller but how do we build the same infrastructure that Facebook has?

Facebook doesn’t just have Facebook and Instagram, it’s also got messenger which is built on the WhatsApp infrastructure. So the infrastructure of it is very strong, very sophisticated.

Darren:

How would you recommend a marketer actually engage? Too often I’ve seen social media end up becoming more media and less social to the point it is almost an extension of their normal marketing plan.

George:

It becomes something where they think they need to be doing it.

Darren:

They are just buying reach, they are extending reach; this media will get this on demand video so we are just trying to maximise our reach and so social media is just another way of getting further reach.

George:

Yeah right, it really is about value add, new content. If we talk purely about content in that way it is value add so the things that create engagement on the content side with social, are things that are inspirational, they are relevant and they are valuable.

And you can go into the context of social media as in social content but if that social content is not relevant to the audience, it’s not valuable to them, it’s not engaging or inspirational or controversial, then it’s not really going to create any traction for anyone.

I don’t really look at it if it is social or not, I see if it is in those three categories and that’s just a human thing. Take Donald Trump, controversial but he’s controversial on purpose as it creates touch points for him, he creates normality in his audiences that see him eventually becoming president. So controversy is fantastic in terms of building brand.

Darren:

It is interesting when we have arguably the most powerful politician in the world issuing policy statements by Twitter. Let’s talk about Twitter because it’s one of those platforms that runs hot and cold. People talk about it as being an  incredibly powerful social media and yet I think advertisers really struggle with it don’t they?

George:

It’s a different platform again in the way it’s being used. It’s mainly used by your celebrity, your personality, your politician and your journalists. Your journalists will get a lot of his or her information from Twitter and then publicise that in the news platform that they are publicising on.

For business in itself it is very limited. One because the platform is not sophisticated enough, two the limitation on content really restricts. It’s great for businesses if they have the resources to do so, to use it as a surveying tool, or poll tool in getting feedback; it’s great for that. In terms of getting return on investment from an advertising campaign purely on twitter I’ve never really seen anything that works.

Darren:

I think also there are a lot of accounts. A lot of people have accounts on Twitter but I don’t get the feeling that the activity is as high as it once was. There’s a core user base and the type of user base would have to be part of who you are trying to reach or engage anyway.

George:

Yeah that’s right. If you are a PR firm Twitter is fantastic.

Darren:

Or journalists, they are all on there.

George:

Absolutely.

Darren:

They all send messages to each other, they are all looking out for what politicians do and companies do, a lot of announcements on Twitter.

George:

It’s an old school platform.

Darren:

Bizarre isn’t it.

George:

It is I know. Someone told me the other day that the Bledisloe Cup has never been publicised on social media as Australia winning it. We are talking about old school though it’s been around twelve years.

The thing with Twitter if you look at the numbers, there’s a great data source on line, it’s socialmedianews.com.au. They publicise numbers each month and the numbers of active users on Twitter is declining, it’s definitely a core base.

Darren:

You’ve mentioned algorithms and there’s a growing criticism about serving to people the content that they like and actually creating these bubbles of existence. What do you think about that because you can understand from a business point of view they want to give people more of what they want and are engaged in but does it come at the trap of only hearing the things that they want to hear?

George:

This gets bought up at my Sydney Uni lectures; quite often people talk about it. From a sociology level for people I can understand it’s quite concerning but from a marketing level it works.

You look at the CTR rates if you do it to targeted audiences, CTR doesn’t drop, so until it stops working it’s just going to be continually used. Now you’ve got the talk of car companies using digital radio, so as a user you log in into Facebook on your digital radio and the only ads you’re going to get on radio now are through your car, in the future they are going to be personalised to you.

The world is going towards a personalisation thing and people might say, oh that’s scary and the old tin full hat thing but at the end of the day that’s what people want.

Darren:

It’s also human nature; like attracts like and people fit together in their little groups.

George:

That’s it.

Darren:

Having an outsider bringing in a counter point of view often disturbs the social harmony.

George:

That’s right, and it’s not true that you can’t get outside viewpoints because you can still target people on a fresh basis on an external campaign they may have not engaged with before but would you do that as a marketer, I mean no it’s a bit silly. You would not really get traction unless you have surveyed that market and they are interested in that.

Let’s say in politics you wouldn’t go to a left wing audience and publicise a conservative view point, it just wouldn’t work. You would get a lot of negativity from that.

Darren:

Of course, you would just outrage them.

George:

Correct.

Darren:

And people seem to get outraged very quickly on all sorts of things.

Just on that point about how effective that is by the algorithm playing to what people want, this is really a marketing media isn’t it? It’s a way of people participating and doing what they want but that is really a way of capturing an audience that you can then commercialise.

George:

Absolutely. I mean Facebook’s IPO is all based on their data bases. They weren’t advertising at that point, it is the data base.

If we move away from social media, let’s look at Uber, Netflix or some of the OTA; online travel agents like booking.com they are aggregators of data. Uber is not a car share company to begin with; it’s a data base company. Its real value is the data base it accumulates. It made a net loss last year however its valuation continues to increase because of the data base.

Darren:

So on that basis you would agree with the position that Facebook is a technology company and not a media.

George:

Facebook is the world’s biggest media company without creating any of its own content, so it’s a platform for media.

Darren:

Right, but it’s not actually a media company even though most of its revenue comes from advertising.

George:

Correct. I would say it is a media company in that it’s a platform for media, same way you could say medianews.com.au is a media platform company for its journalists that publicise articles on there. It’s a media company but also a media company that has a platform that allows others to publicise content onto it.

Darren:

It’s like out of home; they have media, they have spaces but they don’t actually make the content. The advertiser puts the content in and they are still media companies. So on that basis, YouTube, Facebook , Instagram, if you’re selling advertising you are actually a media company.

George:

Yeah, they are competing against channel nine, CNN, channel seven.

Darren:

Netflix, and this is where we started which is ultimately everyone is competing just to get someone’s attention.

George:

Correct.

Darren:

The one thing we have less and less of which is time, and so it becomes more and more a valuable commodity to actually be able to get.

George:

Absolutely. The interesting case study in the last two years was with Channel 9, the merger with Fairfax in that it’s market caps dropped from like 1.8 billion to 800 million in the last couple of years.

Like I said before I do lectures and one of the Channel 9 executives was in may lecture. They were talking a couple of months ago about how there’s going to be this Facebook competition coming out from Channel nine which is an online platform where you can go in and create your own TV ads, schedule it and put a budget behind it like you can with Facebook ads.

So they are all competing in the same space which is media attention, and Facebook the way you’ve put it is correct and that is buying and selling media. It’s media advertising and you’ve got to pay for that platform for media so it is a media company.

Darren:

I agree it’s a technology company in that it uses technology and they’ve used it to create a platform. The technology, to your point has got an algorithm so the type of content that’s actually delivered to people increases their engagement in it, but then they are selling it through creating opportunities for people to advertise which then makes them a media company.

Even though they don’t create the media themselves, same as YouTube doesn’t create its own media, in fact very few social media companies do.

George:

That’s right.

Darren:

But they have to own up to the fact they are a media company with the same responsibilities that any media company has.

George:

I think Facebook have been hit with that in the last couple of years and its take up on fake news and all that sort of thing. It is an interesting point you make and hits back to the slogan I sort of said at the start; Facebook is the biggest media company without publishing any media. It is in essence a media company but for the benefit of shareholders and the market in terms of investors it is much more probably PR wise better to say it’s an IT company.

Darren:

It’s also a legal reason to be an IT company because if I’m an outdoor company and I have that space and I put up advertising that is either misleading, deceptive or is against the moral code, I’m responsible as the media.

If I’m a TV station and I run ads that are misleading or deceptive or amoral or offend the general population, I’m responsible. But Facebook is not responsible.

In fact legally they have managed to fly by saying we are not the media, we are a technology company. One of the things that really bugs me is the number of scam ads in my Facebook feed. When you want to report this all it says to you is why do you want to report it?

Because it is misleading and deceptive and, they say, not that they will take it down, we just won’t serve it to you anymore but they will serve it to the millions of other people on the platform.

Now to me that is amoral and if they were a media company they would be held responsible for it.

There were scam ads for RM Williams boots and scam ads for other things and when you report it they do nothing about it except stop putting it in your feed.

George:

Yeah.

Darren:

Now if they were a media company the ACCC would drag them through court and they would be paying millions and millions of dollars because the media company is responsible for the advertising that they run and yet Facebook because they are a technology company, out of Ireland for tax purposes, so we can’t be held responsible for the content, I’m sorry.

If you are a media company and you are making your money out of advertising, it comes with a responsibility.

George:

I hundred percent agree.

Darren:

It’s going to be a big issue. The only reason politicians are not doing it is because they are scared of the power of Facebook.

George:

Also the mechanics of it are quite hard. You’ve got Facebook , such a big company they can weave their web anywhere they want globally and avoid and dodge certain things regulatory wise.

The recent recommendation from the inquiry into Facebook and Google, I mean Google is the same. Google will take no responsibility for its placement of articles; it will say that it is a third party.

An ACCC report recommendation was to break it up in Australia. Can you stop an internet provider? No you can’t, it’s very hard.

Darren:

Here’s the other reason. Every other media exists because they give them permission to be a medium. Like you can only be a publisher if you are willing to take on the rights of a publisher. You can only have a TV license if you take on the rights. You can only run a radio station if you are given part of the frequency.

So what they could do to Facebook is turn around and say you can operate in Australia but you will be held to the same standards that all other media are held to.

George:

Yeah.

Darren:

And it’s a nightmare because advertisers can load ads into Facebook, in fact I tracked down some of these scam ads and they are out of Singapore and out of China. So there are not many scam advertisers trying to run ads on Channel 9 at the moment that I would imagine.

George:

And Channel 9 wouldn’t do that because it’s not good business practice either and regulatory wise they can’t.

Darren:

They would lose their licence.

George:

But what Facebook is coming to the realisation of and I’m obviously not a spokesperson for them, is good business practice is better for the company so the algorithm is their first step into that and that happened as a result of bad feedback and they had the analytical issue and the inquiries.

Now as an agency we run many campaigns daily that are all live at once. We are getting pushed back on ads for the slightest incursion and the slightest misstep in communication. One of our companies is a large alcohol company and if you have anything that insinuates that you are trying to advertise.

Darren:

To children or under aged drinkers.

George:

Or encourage the drinking of alcohol they will stop it and they’ve invested in a large manual review team. I think they’ve got 15,000 people that review ads and content manually worldwide.

They understand for any business, good business practice is what’s going to help their business grow.

Darren:

Even for you as an agency, you do the best by your client. The best by the client is not necessarily doing bad business practice but you’ll always be effective within what is an acceptable behaviour wouldn’t you.

George:

Correct, absolutely.

Darren:

Because you want to be here next week.

George:

Yeah that’s right and with Facebook they want that user saying, ‘I love using it’. For me as a social media agency I just want good practice and if the industry turned to rubbish tomorrow I’d put my shingle down. I don’t want to work in a toxic sort of atmosphere and it won’t exist or survive if it is.

Like I said before the main currency in social media is engagement. If people stop engaging it just won’t exist.

Darren:

So Attention Experts is the company, George, so people listening to this should be getting in touch if they feel like their social media is not working as hard as it should be, right.

George:

Absolutely.

Darren:

Look we’ve run out of time but I really appreciate you dropping by and sitting down and having a chat.

George:

I appreciate your time, Darren, and thanks for having me.

Darren:

Just one last question and that is you must have a view, out of all the things coming through, where do you think the next big social media opportunity is going to be for advertisers?

Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals, Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by Darren Woolley and special guests. Find all the episodes here

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Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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