Digital Essays: Fleishman-Hillard Digital - Digital gurus in discourse

The future of marketing lies in user-generated content on social media that promotes brands directly and indirectly. Here, two digital whizz-kids discuss the future of the web and how the role of PROs is changing.

Ben Mason: So, is advertising dead?

Paul Borge: I am so bored with that discussion. Ad content is being ripped up, played with, customised and shared. There's some brilliant content out there promoting brands and products indirectly, often without them even realising.

BM: A kind of consumer-generated advertising, then?

PB: The people making it can even earn money by showing more traditional ads to their audiences. Content and the communities based around it are the future of marketing.

BM: Which is where PROs come in. We need to show brands how to create, or help others create, online experiences integral to the brand. Marketing companies are coming face-to-face with each other in the digital land grab.

PB: Which we're going to win?

BM: As long as we can prove that we're the best ones for the job because we are used to building relationships, and providing relevant messages and tools to the right audiences, at the right time.

PB: And show, presumably, that it's not just the media that we need to reach, but anyone who's got an audience?

BM: Ah, the magic 'influencers'. We know how to find them, right?

PB: As an industry we are starting to develop the tools to ascertain which bloggers and social media groupies have the most influence in any given area and are worth engaging with.

BM: How do we prove what the value to the client is?

PB: Well, we can say how many people have seen the stories.

BM: Surely that's not enough any more.

PB: We can say how many of them have responded and what they thought about it.

BM: Keep going...

PB: OK, we can say how many have taken action as a result - visited the website, downloaded the application, told a group of friends, bought a product or visited an event.

BM: That's got to be better than estimating an advertising equivalent based on how many people might have seen a story. What we need is ongoing relationships with people who matter.

PB: You sound like my counsellor. Do you mean the 'F' word?

BM: Ah, the mighty Facebook. Future of the world or flash in the pan?

PB: It's definitely got people talking. But have you ever clicked on a branded story on there?

BM: Er, good point, no. But how many groups do you belong to?

PB: Nearly 50.

BM: That's where the opportunity is, then. Creating a community around something interesting, exciting, different and specific. Creating bespoke social media sites, both professional and personal, for instance.

PB: Then there are the new mobile communities, where members can seek out friends and link to places, events and stuff that's interesting to them in the real world.

BM: But what about navigating the internet at the same time?

PB: Ah, the 'S' word.

BM: Yes, Second Life. It's so hard to find your way around though!

PB: It's just a prototype. For now we can help show people around.

BM: I see that becoming a big part of our job as communication professionals - tour guides for the internet.

PB: Whenever you want something, it's there waiting for you if only you could find it. Rather than virtual bus tours, we have to make the information easy for people to find for themselves.

BM: Everything made simpler.

PB: Knowing what box to go to.

BM: Yes, but only for the areas people know about - their niches.

PB: Then we just need to know who to go to for each niche and suddenly everybody is an influencer for the areas in which they have insight.

PB: In other words, re-introducing the personal and local touch.

BM: But localised around interests and expertise globally, rather than Madge from next door.

PB: And because it's so localised and personal, what have we achieved?

BM: The re-establishment of trust in society, Mr Borge.

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