Social Media’s Universal Soldiers and Other Metaphors

Describing social media marketing is like . . .

Advertising professionals have no shortage of metaphors to describe social media, and panelists at the IAB MIXX Conference today brought their A game.

There's the dinner party metaphor, where the brand is the host, creating an interactive, entertaining environment for its guests. "The food you're serving is the content," said Karen Premo, a principal at Booz & Co.

Then there are the sports metaphors. Traditional marketing is like football. A quarterback calls one of a set number of plays and executes it, lots of stopping and starting happens, and every player is a specialist of some sort. Social media marketing, Premo argued, is more like soccer, where every player has to think on the fly, the game never stops, and positions are more fluid.

And then there's the metaphor of the universal soldier. Social marketers need to be adept and able to think on the fly, said Venky Balakrishnan, vp of communications at Diageo. The medium demands so many new situations that it would be impossible to build a set of best practices. As such, Diageo hires members to its social team that have shark-like social instincts and can act on them in real time, Balakrishnan said. "We want learning machines who can constantly adapt to new situations. Almost like Navy Seals," he added.