For a moment, I want you to rethink what we consider advertising. Drop the entire notion of traditional ads all together.

Often in life, the thing we need most is so close to us, that we overlook it.

Psychologists might call this inattentional blindness. In layman terms, we can call this hidden in plain sight.

I believe that this is an epidemic among marketers in regards to the function, utility, and context of social media marketing.

I’m a younger marketer and haven’t been around for past decades of marketing. For this reason, I have no attachment to historically favourable marketing practices or the “tried and true” tactics. I’m simply an observer.

As a member and participant of the most valuable marketing demographic, I see where people my age spend their time, what they share, what they’re excited about, and what they ignore.

Stop Forcing The Old Onto The New

Although I didn’t market anything before 2010, I’m aware that marketing is not what it used to be. Like watching a movie from the 80’s today, I can just tell. Marketing has clearly evolved and I don’t romanticize what it used to be. However, I believe that romanticism is what’s happening with many marketers today.

Everything used to be about ads — how to make them and where to place them. As the Internet emerged, no one could have predicted how it would evolve, so marketers simply took what they knew and reapplied it to the web. Now they’re doing it to mobile and social media.

Given the appropriate context, I appreciate that there is still a place for traditional advertising, but marketers also need to appreciate that increasingly, there is a place without it.

Follow Attention

I don’t know what metric, analytic, or bit of research companies are waiting for. In plain sight, you can observe the behavior of the market and clearly see where people now place most of their attention. It’s not on traditional ads.

With video on the rise, people in my demographic are watching online and on their mobile.

Friends and family share a lot of videos with me each week via YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. For the ones that love television and Film, they are downloading or using streaming services instead of catching it when it airs.

So, why is this an oversight for brands? Obviously, we are consuming video online.

Online Video Does Not Follow Television

At this point, it shouldn’t be a major surprise that YouTube now reaches more 18–35 years olds than any single cable network. The decision to apply the traditional ad methods to everything in new and social media shouldn’t be a major surprise either. Many marketing practices are based on assumptions and stem from old beliefs that have yet to evolve. As the world evolves, it’s so easy and comfortable to stick to what has worked historically.

When looking at the massive opportunity that online video presents, most brands are thinking, “How can we get the most out of advertising here?” The fundamental angle being overlooked is asking, “How can we contribute the most here?”

Online Is About Giving, Not Receiving

For brands, contribution means joining online communities that resonate with their demographic, participating in the conversation, and creating content that gives back to them. This formula is how countless online leader thrives and influence. This is the latest evolution of media behavior. If you log on and find the most followed and influential individuals on the web, you will notice one common characteristic: they all give value selflessly to their community, while asking for very little in return. Does this sound like traditional advertising to you? It sounds like the opposite to me.

As I first mentioned, carve out a small part of your strategy that forgets about advertising. If you couldn’t use any traditional methods, how would you most effectively reach your audience online? I suggest by becoming one of them.

Many individuals have become influencers this way, without a budget to their advantage. As a brand, use the budget that your audience wished they had to create content they wish they could create.

It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.

Placing ads and then tracking consumer behavior to predict how you can best reach them is not the only strategy available. When you are a content developer and contributor yourself, you can simply ask the audience for their opinion. You can share content and have a discussion about it.

You converse directly with them through an actual relationship.

Branding is what will lead to customer loyalty. Don’t just make an ad — make content to be used, shared, and admired. Traditional ads rarely inspire, well-crafted content frequently does.