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Brian Solis: 'There is no viral marketing'

Marketers and advertisers are trying to catch fire on social-media sites like the hottest underground meme, but publicist and blogger Solis says that's not the right mentality.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

NEW YORK--Blogger and new-media publicist Brian Solis struck down one of the biggest marketing buzz terms of the past few years in a panel on Wednesday morning at the Web 2.0 Expo here.

"There is no 'viral marketing' per se," Solis said, referring to the marketing trend of creating a catchy online gimmick and hoping it will spread like the latest cat-does-something-funny video on YouTube. Rather, Solis explained, it's the people who make it viral. Getting a grip on online marketing is an ongoing strategy, he said. "This isn't a campaign. This is something new, this is something we have to do every day."

Getting brands onto social networks is one of the hottest topics of the marketing world these days, from partnerships with MySpace and Facebook to "appvertising" on their developer platforms.

Solis' tips for the audience: get to know bloggers as well as traditional journalists, be aware of what people are saying about your company or brand on blogs and social networks, and know that there's more to the Web than a Facebook fan page. "This whole thing is bigger than Twitter, (and) this whole thing is bigger than Facebook," Solis said.

"You're not a marketer anymore, you're not a public relationships professional anymore, you're just a person who knows what you're talking about, so you're just able to jump in and cultivate relationships," he said. "We're humanizing our story."

Idealistic, for sure, and Solis acknowledged that the rules of "social-media marketing" are by no means set in stone. Things can change fast, and companies need to be ready to adapt.

And the underlying truth is that this is all still advertising, marketing, and public relations, and too many attempts to mask it as "conversation" can come across as a gimmick. Indeed, Solis said that a lot of people are screwing it up.

"They're creating profiles on every social network and they're 'friending' everyone like it's going out of style," he said, talking about Twitter spam and showing a PowerPoint slide of the cartoon incarnation of trying too hard, Wile E. Coyote. "It's not about shilling, it's not about pushing, and it's not about faking it."

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