How social media trust changed marketing

Trust is one of the great cornerstones of life. The most successful relationships, whether personal or business, are built on trust.  Trust is a key factor in the consumption of news and information, too. Over the years, many readers, listeners, and ultimately viewers placed trust in their preferred media channel for the most current and accurate news and information.  Subsequently, each channel began to exploit the trust gained from consumers by accepting advertisements which allowed businesses to leverage the media’s credibility and intimacy through association. The challenge was then, as is now, to determine how to align the marketing and advertising of the business with the media most apt to have the greatest trust among the target customers. Unfortunately, those trusted channels of media and communication are constantly changing.

Much like early newspaper readers became radio listeners, and radio listeners ultimately became television viewers, social media platforms give individuals a different way in which to consume news and information, and this influences how trust is granted. Trust is still the currency, but it is no longer given freely to traditional media (newspaper, magazines, radio, or television) and marketers do not benefit from this association as they once did. Social media has taken the concept of trust in one-on-one personal relationships and created a somewhat commodified version of trust with online peer relationships that are enabled through the distinct differences of each platform. Trust has shifted from the medium itself to an ever-evolving value placed on an online peer relationship with roots established through relational identity (Pan, Lu, Wang, & Chau, 2017). More specifically, if an online peer seems to like and do things similar to the individual granting such trust, a value is created regardless of whether there is any meaningful engagement outside of the online relationship. Social media, then, has established an entirely different trust model—a model built on peer influence and not channel trust. This new model requires entrepreneurs to think differently about advertising and marketing.

Entrepreneurs may realize the benefits of social media tools to both spread word about their business and to engage with customers in a meaningful way. However, it is not enough to understand the broader value of social media use; it is more important to know how to use each platform to engender trust (Cesaroni & Consoli, 2015). Each social media platform, for example, has a specific way of facilitating engaging its users and each user has his or her pattern and practice of using the different platforms (Kerpen, 2015). No one platform can reach all customers or prospects effectively. Each has its purpose. While Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest get the lion’s share of attention, social media and engagement are much broader than these few networks. In fact, the number opportunities for social engagement is vast and growing every day.

Analyst and cultural anthropologist Brian Solis has been tracking social networks and their use in an ongoing study since 2008. The latest version of The Conversation Prism (below – click to see a bigger version) is Solis and Jesse Thomas’ visualization of these networks. Solis shows large buckets of engagement identified as Listening, Learning, and Adapting, and then further subdivides into smaller buckets related their functional business support: Brand, Community, Service, Development, Marketing, Sales, Communications and HR (Solis & Thomas, 2017). Solis’ work argues that social media is not necessarily platform driven, but instead, engagement is driven based on the unique needs, values, and expectations (NVEs) of individual customers.

Arguably it is the NVEs that drives the platform choice; therefore, a niche platform that aligns better to an entrepreneur’s business offering may prove more productive for the entrepreneur than the more conventional networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. This is especially true when considering the growing number of platforms. It can be difficult for an entrepreneur to determine where to place his or her time and energy for social media use. In fact, determining the best fit between the user patterns and the most appropriate platform for the business’ current and potential customers can make or break an online marketing campaign. This is not to say the more traditional networks should not be used at all. Instead, they might be utilized in a more limited manner depending upon the target customer NVEs.

Regardless of the hype, social media is not a replacement for face-to-face customer engagement. A social networking platform, like letters and the telephone, is a tool in the entrepreneurial toolbox. It is imperative to select the tool or tools that will help best achieve the business goals and then stick with the plan. Do not, for example, launch a Twitter account, Facebook Page, or even a blog and then let it go dormant. In today’s active social environment, a stagnant online presence can be more detrimental to the business than no presence at all (Geho & Dangelo, 2012). Keep in mind that the wrong tool or using the right tool in a wrong way can also be detrimental to the business, and no one social media tool is likely to reach all current customers or prospective customers. In the end, marketing online is largely like marketing offline: Go where the customers are, engage in a relevant dialog, and gain their trust. Valued relationships are what build businesses.



Cesaroni, F., & Consoli, D. (2015, December). Are Small Businesses Really Able to Take Advantage of Social Media? (P. Peres, & A. Mesquita, Eds.) The Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management, 13(4), 257-268.

Geho, P., & Dangelo, J. (2012). The Evolution of Social Media as a Marketing Tool for Entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial Executive, 17, 61-68.

Kerpen, D. (2015). Likeable Social Media (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Matney, L. (2017, June 22). YouTube has 1.5 billion logged-in monthly users watching a ton of mobile video. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from

Pan, Z., Lu, Y., Wang, B., & Chau, P. Y. (2017). Who Do You Think You Are? Common and Differential Effects of Social Self-Identity on Social Media Usage. Journal of Management Information Systems, 34(1), 71-101. doi:10.1080/07421222.2017.1296747

Solis, B., & Thomas, J. (2017). The Prism Chronicles. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from



Featured Image Source: Getty Images, Pixelfit

How to hire a marketing agency

As a lifelong marketer, design hack, agency copywriter and media director, I have been known to tackle my own advertising and marketing from time-to-time. I was fond of justifying my decision by arguing that I already knew what I wanted to do, or that I knew my market best, or that I didn’t have the budget to invest in someone to help me. Often, I made a mistake by not choosing an agency to help me achieve my goals.

It’s not that I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew my business, my customer, and had I my marketing objectives identified. But by doing the work myself, I was hampering the marketing effectiveness by limiting the strategic thinking, ideation, creative execution, and media selection to my capabilities alone.  It’s not a smart business move, and like so many entrepreneurs, I learned the hard way that a marketing agency can be an asset to business.

What an agency does.

Marketing agencies can bring a wealth of expertise to help entrepreneurs. It used to be that a traditional or full-service marketing agency helped the client conduct research, better understand the target market, fine-tune the message to that target market, develop and execute a creative strategy, manage sales promotions and public relations, and place media (Ogilvy, 1983).  As new media evolved, so did the marketing agency. Although a few large traditional agencies still exist, many firms are specializing in creative, digital, social, and media to serve more specific needs of their clients (Toure, 2015).  These specialized agencies each provide some of the same functions as the full-service agency, but their expertise tends to be more focused.

Regardless of the agency type, the primary goal for any agency you engage should be to help you achieve your business objectives through marketing. For some, the aim is to raise awareness of a new business and begin to build the brand for long-term market presence. For others, the objective will be to “make the cash register ring” on a consistent basis. For still others, it will be a mix of the two. You, as the client, must fully understand how you want marketing to help you achieve your goals and objectives. This is the foundation for any business and a requirement before engaging an agency partner to help you attain these goals.

What to look for when you’re ready to hire an agency.

If you’ve decided to engage a marketing agency here are a few things you should consider as you begin your hunt: 

  1. Find marketing campaigns that connect with you emotionally. Marketing in today’s world is about storytelling and emotional connection. Agencies that do this well will move you in some way with their marketing. They’ll make you laugh, cry, make you angry or maybe even clutch your pearls. Find out which agencies did the work that moved you and makes a list.
  1. Review agency self-promotion. Do your homework. Spend some time on their website and look through trade publications where they might advertise. Check out their social media presence (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn) and see if they’re active and relevant (Hendrix, 2017). Are they consistent with their message through all the channels? Do they practice what they preach to their clients?
  1. Determine the type of agency you might need. Depending on your business and your objectives you might a need a full-service agency, a creative agency, or maybe a social media agency. Each one will bring something different—a particular set of skills and abilities–to help you achieve your goals. You need to consider what you need before you engage an agency. 
  1. Consider industry expertise, but don’t be bound by it. An agency with experience in your industry can save you a lot of time and energy. You’ll have to help them understand your business, but their experience and understanding of the industry may give them an advantage in positioning your business against your competition(Dearing, 2013). Conversely, you might also consider whether an agency without industry experience might be better able to create break-through marketing programs because they’re not confined by industry thinking and approaches. 
  1. Look for an agency that has a history of more than one campaign. Most any agency can create one good campaign, but a good agency will have many clients with repeated successes that they can document and that can be substantiated by their clients during a due diligence process.
  1. Make sure you have good chemistry and mutual respect. The client-agency working relationship is not always smooth(Ogilvy, 1983). But good chemistry can contribute to making it easier and more desirable to work through the rough spots and grow together.

What you should expect when working with an agency.

One you’ve engaged a marketing agency you should you’re ready to get to work. You should expect:

  1. To help them learn your business. A marketing agency will need to know your business almost as well as you do if they are to help you achieve your goals and objectives. Tell them everything you know about your industry (if they don’t already), products, your market, your competition, and your customers. Also, make sure to share your previous marketing campaigns—the successes and the failures—and explain what you think worked (or didn’t) for each. In exchange, they should bring solid business savvy to help piece together everything you’ve told them into a strong strategy for marketing success (Dearing, 2013).
  1. To be open to hearing their best advice. A good marketing agency will tell you things you don’t want to hear. This is a good thing. You’re paying for their best advice and direction. Trust that they want success for you because it translates into success for them.
  1. Something different. Your problems are different than your competitor’s problems. Your problems are different than the company whose marketing first caught your eye and provoked you to find the agency you hired. Each client is different and so are their problems. Don’t expect the agency to do work that’s similar to work they’ve done for others. That work solved those problems, and you want the agency to address yours (Stout, 2017). And that might look completely different than anything else you may have seen. Grant them the freedom to do their best work..for you.
  1. Expertise in the area for which you are hiring them. If you can afford it, a full-service agency will likely have many departments it can leverage together to help your business grow. But other agencies specialize. If you hire a social media agency to assist with your social media marketing, they may or may not have experience in graphic design, copywriting, or visual content creation. Know this before hiring them and do not expect them to stretch too far beyond their area of expertise and do it well. Doing so sets both parties up for failure.

Too often entrepreneurs get in their own way when it comes to marketing. Marketing looks easy from the outside, but it is often a complex machine. When done well, a business can flourish; when done poorly, a company can crash and burn. Choosing the right marketing agency for your business can make all the difference. I should know. I have first-hand experience in both situations.



Dearing, G. (2013, December 18). 5 Things To Look For When Hiring Your Marketing Agency. Retrieved April 27, 2017, from

Hendrix, A. (2017, April 16). Ahna Hendrix on Entrepreneurship. (D. Harkins, Interviewer) Charlotte, NC. Retrieved from

Ogilvy, D. (1983). Ogilvy on Advertising. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.

Stout, D. J. (2017, April 17). Design Matters with DJ Stout. (D. Millman, Interviewer) Retrieved April 27, 2017, from

Toure, M. (2015, March 23). Are Full Service Agencies a Thing of the Past or the Future? Retrieved April 26, 2017, from



Featured  Image Source: Getty Images, John Lund

Billboard Ad Analysis

The following is a review of five selected billboard advertisements. Some of the advertisements have been chosen from award-winning ads located in the archives of; others were from Click on each ad link below or scroll down to review the analysis of each ad. If you desire to review the advertisement more closely, click on the ad image itself to see a larger version.

Advertisement 1: ClearWay – Minnesota, We All Pay the Price

Advertisement 2: BevMo!, Buy Responsibly

Advertisement 3: Gold Toe, Invisible People: See the World

Advertisement 4: Chick-Fil-A, Beef Puts U 2 Sleep

Advertisement 5: Robbins Diamonds, She’s Tired of Waiting


Advertisement 1: ClearWay – Minnesota, 2012

 “We All Pay The Price”

About the Advertisement:

The billboard for ClearWay – Minnesota carries an anti-smoking message.It shows a background photo of a young adult female smoking a cigarette behind eight 3-dimensional vertical cigarettes that resemble bars of a jail cell. An URL for ClearWay’s promotional website shown between the “bars” on the far right of the billboard. It was part of a multi-media campaign which included billboards and video advertisements.

The billboard stimulates curiosity with the use of its imagery. The message is not immediately clear, and the viewer would have to be interested enough to visit the website to learn more.


The purpose of the billboard is to capture the audience’s attention quickly and suggest that smoking confines and harms everyone, not just the smoker’s themselves. The message is that everyone pays the price of smoking–smokers and non-smokers–in the state of Minnesota through the increased costs of healthcare. And those higher costs divert money from other services that might benefit a larger population.

It is unclear from research into Minnesota’s whether this billboard was active in contributing to the reduction in tobacco use within the state.

Target Market:

The target market appears to be teens, and young adults consider the photo of a young woman used in the billboard’s background. A secondary market might be parents of teens, and a tertiary marketed might anyone who is curious about the meaning behind the billboard’s visual imagery.

Call to Action:

The presence of an URL suggests the call to action is “visit the website” to learn more. The site is no longer active; however, the organization’s website ( carries information about the cost of smoking in Minnesota that might have been similar to what was used.

Value Proposition:

Cigarettes take away your freedom. Smoking creates barriers for all of us.

Advertisement Billboard 2: BevMo!, 2015

 “Buy Responsibly”

About the Advertisement:

“Buy Responsibly” is part of a multi-board campaign for discount beverage retailer, BeMo! The billboard carries the headline “Buy Responsibly” along with a photo a stemless glass of red wine and draws a connection to the “Drink Responsibly” advertisements or messages seen on alcohol. The second line and message on the billboard are “Don’t pay too much for wine.” A BevMo! logo sits below the wine glass.

The advertisement may trigger wonder as it relates to the “Drink Responsibly” message often associated with alcohol. A simultaneous or subsequent emotion may be humor as the message settles in with the viewer.


The billboard goal is to increase sales of products by carrying the message that BevMo provides the best prices for wine. Given that BevMo is a private company, it is unknown as to whether the billboard generated increased sales for the company. It is likely to have made a solid connection with its target market

Target Market:

Given the wine glass and the copy on the board, the target market for the billboard is likely wine drinkers, age 21+.

Call to Action:

The call to action is to buy wine from BevMo!

Value Proposition:

If you’re not buying wine from BevMo!, you’re paying too much.

Advertisement 3: Gold Toe, 2016

 “Invisible People: See the World”


About the Advertisement:

The billboard for Gold Toe showcases a pair of socks resting on a car dashboard as the car is driving through snow-covered mountains. There are no legs associated with the socks. The headline is, “Set your socks on seeing the world” and features the Gold Toe Socks logo. The billboard is one in a campaign series for GoldToe.

The advertisement evokes surprise and humor. Nearly everyone has witnessed someone or been guilty themselves of propping feet on the car dashboard on a long trip.


The billboard’s goal is to increase sales and by suggesting that GoldToe has the most comfortable socks for traveling. Moreover, Gold Toe has been in business since 1934 and has a history of making a quality work sock as is suggested by their website. More adventuresome imagery and sock patterns might also suggest that Gold Toe desires to capture a new market for its product.

Also, using an everyday situation of car travel, Gold Toe also suggests that it’s socks are not limited to travel or adventure, but also can be worn whenever one desires comfort. The invisible person in the billboard allows the viewer easily imagine themselves wearing the socks.

Target Market:

The target market appears to be anyone who wears socks. Considering that “feet on the dashboard” tends to be something younger people do, one might argue that the billboard further targets the Millenial Generation. The headline, “Set your socks on seeing the world” encourages and relates to those who seek adventure and might support the new market argument made above.

Call to Action:

The billboard’s call to action is subtle. It suggests the viewer get Gold Toe socks for the next trip.

Value Proposition:

There’s no better sock for traveling than Gold Toe. Let your socks take an adventure, and make sure you’re feet (legs, and body) go with them.

Advertisement 4: Chick-Fil-A, n.d.

 “Beef Puts U 2 Sleep”

About the Advertisement:

The billboard is one in an ongoing series of advertisements from Chick-Fil-A featuring self-preserving cows encouraging the viewer to eat chicken and not beef. This billboard, Beef Puts U 2 Sleep, features the “cow-lettered” phrase “Beef Puts U 2 Sleep” on the billboard background, along with three, life-like, sleeping Holstein Cows sleeping on the billboard deck–one is even on top of the billboard. The advertisement suggests the cows were painting the billboard and fell asleep. The Chick-Fil-A logo is prominent on the board.

The billboard uses humor to connect with the viewer.


The billboard’s goal is to sell more chicken for Chick-Fil-A by suggesting that eating beef makes one sluggish and tired, while presumably eating chicken does not. The billboard’s objective is also to reinforce the brand message and sustain top-of-mind awareness for Chick-Fil-A through humor even when the viewer is not in need of food.

Given Chick-Fil-A’s apparent popularity, it would appear the billboards achieve this goal.

Target Market:

The primary target market for this billboard is presumably travelers who are in need of food. A secondary market is anyone who eats chicken, or at least not beef.

Call to Action:

The call to action is to eat more chicken. Specifically, chicken from Chick-Fil-A.

Value Proposition:

Chicken’s better for you than beef. Or so say the cows.

Advertisement 5: Robbins Diamonds, 2009

 “She’s Tired of Waiting”

About the Advertisement:

She’s Tired of Waiting is a billboard for Robbins Diamonds, a Newark Delaware jewelry store. It features a slightly out-of-focus photograph of a woman holding up her ring finger with the headline, “She’s tired of waiting.” Robbins Diamonds logo and the company website is also on the board.

This advertisement evokes surprise as at first glance it looks like the woman in the ad is holding up her middle finger. The surprise transitions into humor as the viewer realizes it is the ring finger that is being prominently displayed.


The aim of advertisement is to sell more products, particularly engagement rings.

Target Market:

The target market appears to be men of marrying age who are dragging their feet in proposing to their girlfriends.

Call to Action:

The call to action is to visit Robbins Diamonds to purchase an engagement ring.

Value Proposition:

Stop wasting time. Robbins Diamonds can keep her from dumping you.

Featured  Image Source: Getty Images, H. Armstrong Roberts/Classic Stock

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