The Peculiar Marketing Trends Among The Social Software Industry

The social software space has been conducting some interesting marketing techniques, and I’m here to comment on what I’ve seen.  Being an attendee at dozens of shows a year, also receiving more emails than I can count from these vendors, I wanted to provide a broader perspective, and then get your comments.

In addition to the usual forms of marketing from working with PR agencies, press releases, taking over SERP pages of a competitor,  brochures, white papers, case studies, webinars, and the lot, I’m seeing a few interesting trends in their marketing mix I wanted to highlight:

1) Social Software Vendors Ironically Invest in Airport Display Advertising. While I’ve heard about it, I saw it for the first time in Chicago airport this week, Buddy Media’s print advertising was prominantly displayed, here’s their blog post touting the campaign.  Given their hefty investment raise of $54 million a few bones tossed on display advertising seems like a small play.  Yet Andrew Jones, Altimeter Researcher heard first hand from brands we interviewed that they did not want to see a vendor they would hire invest in that way.  I’d argue that Chicago is ripe for brand managers, agencies and the lot, and because no other vendors are deploying on print, this is a smart play.   Marketing  is, after all, integrated, right?

2) In a bite-sized world, Infographics are the new White Paper. I’ve seen a number of changes as our attention span decreases (first of all, thank you for making it this far in my post) as vendors shift from long form white papers to shorter form content.  This trend?  I say we’re moving away from an appetite of content steak to shish kabob –yet the balance is frequently off.  The earliest pioneer in this space was Mint, which aggregated user data and published financial index data to compare young Gen X males to each other.  Lately, we’ve seen a heavy output of infographics from Eloqua (a client) which is used to reach influencers, tap into their egos, and get them to trigger discussions.  Proof? This Blog Tree infographic is such link bait, and yes Web Strategy blog is an orange leaf (but I ain’t fallin yet).   Their team tells me they show an increase in relevancy from these discussion, all tracking using their tool set, and they work with premium infographics firm Jess3 and DIY infographics for marketers from Visual.ly for the rest of us.  Up next?  eBooks are on the rise.  Wait for it.

3) Female Promotional Models Continue to Lure on Conference Floors. As one of the keynotes at a large software conference, I ventured onto the vendor show floor.  Surprisingly, I found many incumbent software and marketing software firms still hiring promotional models (also known as “booth babes” –which feels dirty even to write), do note that Salesforce doesn’t dictate what happens in these booths, it’s dependent on the vendor.  While these attract cameras, and a certain type of eager male, I hesitate on how this may limit bringing executives who don’t want to be seen near them in our always publishing twitpic world.  Furthermore, we know that many of the Corporate Social Strategists are women climbing in their career, I can’t imagine this would attract them to their booth.

4) Humanizing the Brand with Real World Mascots. Beyond just the cutsy logos of Seesmic, Placast, Hootsuite and beyond, we’re starting to see full costumed mascots appearing.  Yet, often, these mascots appear in the enterprise social space, such as Sassy and Chatty from Salesforce, and Get Satisfactions JarGon, an anti-mascot who highlights old school IVR. We’re also seeing street teams at Oracle and Salesforce conferences do battle over your attention, an old trend, not-unlike any local marketing effort.  While they are great for the conference TwitPic and comedic relief, to me this seems more than ironic as social software is to humanize the brand –so why don’t we use humans?

Now, I’d love to hear form you?  Do you think these four forms of marketing from the social software vendors are sufficient to cut through the noise?   Is airport advertising, infographics, promo models, and walking mascots the future of social software marketing?