10/04/2011 07:04 pm ET | Updated Jan 14, 2012

Social Creativity: Marketers Unite!

Friends, let's not make the same mistake again. I know that many of us have been in the digital marketing business for some time now -- and have the grey hair to show for it! Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we? When the web first began gaining traction as a marketing medium, our industry really started to focus on what was different about it. To be sure, there was a lot to be learned about this nascent, unprecedented medium. Most brand marketers knew they needed to explore the new channel but didn't trust that their agencies could understand and master it well enough to help them use it.

So from the beginning we designated specific "digital" folks and saw the rise of the digital agency. Here we are 12-plus years later at Tribal DDB. And we've realized that although it's important to be knowledgeable about web technologies and the ever-evolving way that consumers use them, it is still fundamental to understand the consumer. So in the end, digital marketing really isn't that different. Marketers still need to have a deep understanding of their consumers, focusing on who is on the other side of all the screens rather than focusing on the technology behind the screens themselves. People still have the same inherent needs and desires, and generating insights and connecting with consumers through powerful messaging that moves them is still the tantamount goal of marketers and the requisites for business success. There needs to be greater emphasis placed on consumer insight than the kind of technology used to bring your creative idea to life. As a result, the "traditional" and "digital" are coming together in new and interesting ways all around us.

The rapid pace of change is what makes this evolving business exciting. In the last few years we have seen the explosive rise in the use of social media by consumers. Again, as an industry we find ourselves looking at a new arena and acknowledging that consumers are deeply involved with and passionate about social media. We are interrogating whether these new behaviors and new channels are so different that we need to start new "social" agencies to adequately confront them. It feels like déjà vu all over again.

It can be argued that since the invention of the telephone, there has not been another technology that facilitates peoples' natural social interactions. We are inherently social beings. We like to talk to each other, connect with each other, learn from each other, and stay close to people and to things we care about. It is challenging to successfully use social media for marketing purposes and have something that people care about enough to connect with. In order to create things consumers care about, it is essential that we understand our audiences and what drives them. That sounds an awful lot like where we started -- with prioritizing consumer insights and great creative ideas that connect with people.

What is different about working with social media is that we can finally, achieve the two-way dialogue that we've all been talking about for the past decade at scale. The change that we have to embrace is shifting our collective industry mindset from the past where the publishing of an ad or the launch of a campaign was the end of our efforts, to the present where this is, in fact, just the beginning. When we launch something and put it out in the world, it should be the start of the conversation and interaction that we are having with our audience, not at the end. Our success will be premised on how effective we are at engaging consumers and how much participation and pass-along we drive. It feels like the bar of all creativity now needs to be based on how much share value our ideas have.

So let's not make the same mistake again and silo social media experts and initiatives because it looks new and shiny. To be effective in this new arena, we need to build upon past precedents that were successful and transform our insights into ideas and our ideas into connections. We need to work together to change all of our output to social creativity.