When Will Social Media Meet Rich Media?

Remember when making something ‘viral’ was as easy as adding a forward-to-a-friend button? For a long time, that was enough to satisfy the viral box on an online marketing checklist.

Boy, have times changed.

That forward-to-a-friend button is the last thing you should be doing. In a world where audiences spend (in many cases) 120 minutes per session on their favorite social network; are viewing one of the 100 million videos streamed per day on YouTube,; sharing gigabytes of media on Photobucket, content is expected to be portable.

So are experiences.

Rich media is supposed to remove artificial limitations from creativity, bandwidth, and functionality. While those limits are constantly being exceeded, one potential for rich media has yet to be realized: the potential of galvanization.

Web sites that facilitate customization, personalization, and manipulation of content are some of the fastest growing online properties. Why is advertising so late to the game? Promotional microsites are allowing audiences to mash-up video and music, create blogs, and build avatars in virtual worlds. Meanwhile, our in-page advertising is still asking audiences to punch the monkey, or click to view.

If rich media is to truly realize its potential, it needs to not just engage but to enrich. Audiences have countless ways to find and consume online information. Enrichment of that information is necessary, and empowering audiences with the necessary tools to spread your brand’s message should be a key component of a rich media campaign that extends beyond the ad impression.

There’s been some talk (even here on ClickZ) of whether or not rich media advertising can replace the Web site as the preferred arbiter of advertising content delivery to consumers. While it may never fully replace Web sites, the socially-enabling functions that are now commonplace on Web sites must find their way into our rich media ads.

Advertisers must find ways to use RSS, comment-ability, community, dynamic content delivery, and customization in rich media campaigns to provide more value to impressions. Think about it; if each instance of engagement with an ad yielded one piece of new content being created in an area seen by thousands, how much more value would be created for your brand?

Enrichmed advertising messages are integral to getting audiences to participate. We must explain why the message is relevant to them, incentivize participation, and empower the audience with everything they need to become ambassadors. Enrichment not only creates more educated, empowered consumers, it also allows them to enrich others’ understanding of the message. The web is just the place to do that.

When planning your next rich media-enabled campaign, look at how audiences are already communicating and creating content around the themes you address. Integrate the best socially-enabling aspects into your advertising. You’ll be able to make the critical leap from contributor to the noise to facilitator of conversation.

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