Social Media: What’s the ‘Big Idea’?

NEW YORK The “big idea” for brands in social media to be truly successful has yet to materialize, according to the first Facebook Spark Series of discussions at Advertising Week.


“[Brands] are not there yet. They are on the cusp. They have the technology and know-how — it’s not for lack of trying or creativity,” said Rick Webb, co-founder and COO of The Barbarian Group.

While the messaging is there, said Webb, the problem is the experience is more interactive and less social.

The definition of a big idea, said Rei Inamoto, co-chief creative officer of AKQA, differs on the medium. “It’s what you do [rather] than what you say that becomes the idea,” he said.

Facebook in and of itself is a big idea, as is Twitter, which started out as a small idea, said Inamoto. But where brands are concerned, it hasn’t happened yet. He sees one of the greatest challenges for brands as letting go of a bit of the branding to focus more on the consumers in the space.

Another problem, he said, is that brands tend to view the channel, such as the social network, as the answer.

Advertisers have been putting up brand pages on Facebook, but this is a “complete misuse” of the space, according to Richard Ting, vp and ecd, mobile and emerging platforms group at R/GA. He likened that to a billboard set up on the side of a street. What are missing are the elements of utility and entertainment all at once, he said.

Another hindrance for growth, said the Barbarian Group’s Webb, is the social media platforms’ reluctance to work outside their membership bases. They must allow functionality across platforms while maintaining connections, he said, adding, “If this doesn’t happen, it will be difficult [for brands] to recognize the [relevant ad] spend.”