May 2

The Next Phase of Social Media Marketing

Digital continues to prove a disruptive force in marketing and continues to force marketers to look around the corner to stay ahead of their competition.

Unfortunately, for many their looking glasses (as far as social media strategy is concerned) were a little foggy.

Instead of finding digital strategy advisors with strong analytical and marketing (traditional) backgrounds, they listened to the gurus… the experts… the ones that told them “social media marketing is all about engagement, authenticity, etc.”

The problem was they needed to have someone to engage, to be authentic with, so they focused (logically so) on fan building activities. They asked for RTs, gave away swag, held Facebook contests — anything and everything to build scale. This resulted in brands now sitting with large, mostly unengaged fans and followers.

So now many brands are asking themselves how they can convert followers and fans to paying customers.

That’s why you’ve seen such a focus on ROI over the last year.

So I read with great interest this post about “what’s next” for social media. And I couldn’t disagree more… here’s why.

Go ahead…read the post… I’ll wait.

Ok… now here are my issues with the post.

First the author uses a bit of false logic.

Connecting directly to millions of people with affinity for your brand is not an easy feat, and is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to utilizing social media…

Given the tools and tactics that brands have largely used over the last few years in their mad dash to grow fan bases, I think it is a bit of stretch to assume any level of brand affinity in a brand’s fan/follower base. In fact, when you consider the published data on average Facebook engagement, you pretty much have to conclude that brands today are sitting on largely unengaged follower bases on most of their social networks.

Second, the author (based on this false logic) suggests that the next phase of social media is fan activation, and I quote, “Now marketers must begin to focus on how to activate fans..”

Couldn’t disagree more. That’s cart in front of the horse thinking in my opinion. The next step for social media is segmentation. Brands have no real idea which of their followers are real fans vs just lookie loos that wanted to win something or liked something so their friend could win something.

The next step in social media for brands today is to a deep dive audience analysis of their fan bases.

Only by determining who is and isn’t a fan, how big of a fan they are, and then learning what their brand relationship driver to the brand is can a brand ever hope to truly activate (efficiently) their fans via social media channels.

Now let’s focus on the author’s four key suggestions for how brands should proceed. MY COMMENTS are in italics.

Four ways that brands drive value in social marketing

1. Real-time Insights — with the proper tools, a brand’s social audience can be turned into an advanced tool that keeps a company completely connected to the needs and wants of their broad audience and sub-audiences.

I both agree and disagree with this point. Yes the real-time analytics is a valuable early detection system of both good and bad trends. But to say it keeps a company completely connected, well there I have to quibble.

Marketers can too easily be swooned by the data siren and falsely believe what they are seeing online is real. A case in point from a few years ago is Motrin. After getting ravaged on Twitter and then in blogs over a poor piece of marketing, the company capitulated to the data/experts and pulled a campaign. But had they taken a minute to poll regular consumers (moms) they would have seen a different reality emerge.

I was one of the few at the time that felt like Motrin got it wrong and should have seen the outrage as an opportunity not a threat. In fact, much of my point-of-view at the time was based on a quick digital research and development poll I fielded.

But add the benefit of hindsight and now the experts suggest that in fact, Motrin overreacted.

Like any research, real-time analytics have a place, but without the benefit of context, they can actually lead a brand down the wrong path.

2. Crowdsourced Ideation  — the guesswork of marketers brainstorming ideas they think consumers will connect with will greatly lessen as tools make it easy to co-create new products and marketing campaigns with communities that brands have built on social channels.

This is actually a good point but as Henry Ford said, “If I’d have asked the consumer what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

Steve Jobs was so influential because he could dream worlds his consumers couldn’t fathom. That’s innovation and ideation. If a brand is looking for brand extensions and interations, yes, crowdsourcing is a great tool. But the odds of getting something truly breakthrough via a crowdsourced approach — well let’s just say I’ve yet to see one. What I have seen is examples of bold individuals who are capable of creating worlds others can’t imagine.

But I stand ready to be corrected.

3. Peer-to-Peer Influence — while talk often centers on targeting uber influencers, it is a consumer’s tight-knit, trusted group of real friends and family that influence purchasing decisions. Now scaling “everyday influencers” is becoming feasible, and brands have already built a great audience to start recruiting from.

This is the one point on which the author and I TOTALLY AGREE. Technology is simply not able (yet) to tell you (the brand) who influences me (the consumer) on each and every purchase I make.

4. Offline Advocacy — offline word of mouth still is the key to shaping purchasing behavior. While online sharing and curation is hot, utilizing online tools to mobilize advocates offline at scale can really move the needle for brands that want to sample products, bring people in-store and create experiences around their brands.

Offline is the key to shaping purchasing behavior? Really? Hmmmm, don’t know that I’ve seen that research yet.

Brands need to stop dilinieating between online and offline word-of-mouth because your consumer doesn’t. If my friend tells me something face-to-face vs via Facebook or Twitter, it carries no, zero, nadda more weight with me.

Your consumer values all influential information (as defined in point #3) as equal. Word-of-mouth is word-of-mouth both online and offline. Heck, even the way you usually generate it is the same: shock, awe, humor, freebies, and building great f’in products.

So what’s my point? What am I writing this to you?

Glad you asked.

If you’re a brand side marketer trying to stay ahead of the next digital disruption that threatens to rock  your world, be careful.

There is a lot of information out there of varying levels of quality. If you’re doing your homework and are staying ahead of the information curve, then as my friend Tom Webster says, do the work. Analyze what you’re seeing and reading and apply a bit of critical thinking to understand what all of that information is really telling you.

For those of you that feel like you’re behind the digital information curve, maybe you need to hire a digital bullshit detector that you feel like you can trust for honest advice.

In fact, I’ll make it easy for you, click here to find your Digital Strategy Advisor.

But enough about what I think and all of that…. what do you think? Did I miss something?

photo by Wonderlane

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