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Let's Stop toying with smart phone ads and man up to real brand influence

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Marketers spend an awful lot of time trying to keep up. We were late when consumers made the switch from television, print and radio to the Internet. When we caught up with that, consumers had moved on to the social universe. Now consumers are engrossed in a world in miniature: constant flows of information automate and streamline lives via the small screen in a mobile universe.

The average consumer spreads out his or her online time over four media devices: smartphones, tablets, PCs/laptops, and television. With the ability to multi-task he now spends an average of 5,840 hours per year using a mobile phone while the average time spent watching television is only 1,865 hours per year. What this means for the communications world is that mobile marketing is the next wave of the future.

To communicate in this new environment, marketers need to stop wasting social media dollars on smartphone ads, online magazines and social networks that use the same approach as a 30-second TV spot. When brands first immersed themselves in the search for influential people in social networks they found that the process was much like looking for a needle in a haystack. Even if they found someone who might be considered an influencer, they still didn't know if that person was able to effect behavioral change or how many people might be influenced.

More importantly, the old model of influence itself is no longer useful when it comes to social media. In fact, even the traditional top-down model of celebrity influence is changing. The old model looks at most people as passive recipients of information - but this is not what is happening in the culture of social media. We are learning that people today are agents themselves who take information, rework it, rebroadcast it, and change it.

We are all influencing and drawing influence from others in the social media space. Everyone can be an influencer and can potentially broadcast a brand message if that message is couched in the right idiom. So it isn't about a high Klout score any more; it's about how to best create this connectedness - that people create places. The places represent connection to people, to events, to memories.

Personal Communication Goes Mobile

The white paper on influence, sheds light on the factors that go into shaping influence. Lucule developed a social media-planning framework called Pénte which is informed by a cultural perspective. To assist marketers in understanding how to use social media to affect consumer behavior Pénte identifies five factors that shape audience receptivity to marketing communications, and can therefore impact the desired behavioral response to these communications.

Depending on the specific cultural context of the marketing objectives, these factors play shifting roles in driving the desired response: Message Type, Form of Message, Device, Time, and Level of Audience Engagement. People respond to messages on their mobile phones differently than they do to those received in other ways. It is surprising to see that, although new communication tools are called "social," so little attention is paid to the human meanings of the tech devices themselves and the effects of device usage.

Tom Maschio, master anthropologist and partner at Lucule provides insights into the humanistic side of social and the meanings and dimensions people attribute to the technologies they use. His work includes Blackberry and Google. As Tom sees it, "Texting, photo sharing, streaming video and other content are leading to new ways of being in the world, new ways of finding meaning, value and pleasure in life." When people use mobile devices, they draw upon what anthropologists call cultural scripts, or frames. The scripts most often used are those for toys and play. The use of a mobile device is characterized by the sense that one is playing with a toy because the small size image invites passage to the imaginative realm of play.

These "toys" lend themselves to fantasy and play, yet at the same time our mobile objects are powerful tools for adults. We ascribe certain aspects of ourselves - desires and personality - on to the inner space of the phone, and build a metaphor of self, a sense of the self as accumulating or building over time. For example, a social network becomes meaningful when an Instagram picture of a special moment is sent to the family's digital network. The members of that network comment on and feel the emotion of the scene. People are creating and outlining social boundaries and social communities of taste and shared interests as they incorporate their own lives into the digital space of the smartphone.

It is this space in digital culture that your brand must learn how to occupy if it wishes to have influence in the new mobile world. Just as people increasingly define themselves in relationship to others so too must your company. You need to encourage consumers to become a creative part of your brand; to help "create" around your brand because "creation" is the modern take on self-invention in social, digital, and mobile culture we all participate in to one extent or another. We are all influencing and drawing influence from others on social media spaces.

Mobile devices open people up to the unexpected, felicitous event or experience at any moment in time. That is the message essentially of social media and why the old, standard top-down models of influence are outdated. It is crucial to understand this distinction if marketing is ever to get ahead of the curve.

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