Can brands evolve from digital advertisers to mass communicators?

Social media advertising is all the rage today, but Jeff Dachis, CEO and founder of social analytics firm The Dachis Group, questions whether brands are really getting the concept. Inserting what are essentially billboards into people’s Facebook(s fb) feeds doesn’t count as true engagement, he said Wednesday at GigaOM’s paidContent Live conference in New York City.

“This shift from what I believe to be mass communications to a mass of communicators has created a strong fundamental shift in the way brands are going to be built going forward,” he said. “They’re going to have to figure out how to engage with people instead of advertising at them.”

For Dachis that means direct engagement with people influential in their field through social media channels. Those influencers can then, in turn, amplify their message through the same social media outlets, he said.

Speaking on the same panel as Dachis, Google(s goog) VP of Partner Business Solutions Bonita Stewart took issue with the idea that older formers digital marketing were ineffective. Contrary to popular belief, Stewart said, some display CPM rates are increasing, and Google’s publisher partners are seeing a lot of success using a combination of traditional advertising and new social marketing tools such as Hangouts.

Check out the rest of our paidContent Live 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page