When Facebook was introduced back in 2004, it was a college “social network.” Users could connect with other users, join chat groups, organize events, and post photos. Since then, it has become one of the largest marketing platforms for brands to engage with their consumers, advertise, and publish content.
Social media marketing, like social media itself, has come a long way, but social media marketers still struggle to get buy-in from the executive level to fully invest in their success. There is still a disconnect within organizations on why this channel should be fully integrated into the overall marketing strategy and not in a silo. Social media remains a silo within the marketing department: In the most recent CMO Survey, marketing leaders gave an average of 4.2 (7 being very integrated) when asked to rate how effectively social media is linked to their firms’ marketing strategies. Although this is an increase over the previous year, it is still relatively low.
In 2009, when I began my career managing social media marketing for clients, it was very simple. We encouraged clients to create a social business page, have their appropriate branding and logo correctly displayed, and push content from their RSS feed directly to these newly created social channels.
Less than six months later, our social offerings changed. Users were looking for more than just another publishing platform but a place where they could actually speak to a brand and have that brand listen and respond. Brands started creating content that would encourage a two-way conversation between them and their audience. A new opportunity in marketing was forming.
Working with SMBs that were outsourcing their social media marketing was great for us, but these organizations needed to have a dedicated social media marketer to manage their channels. I would have conversations with directors of marketing and marketing managers around social media strategy, but there was always a disconnect between social and their overall digital marketing plan. We would build out social strategies, explain how it contributed to an integrated digital plan, and educate them on how to invest in and budget for social media in relation to the overall marketing budget. But I would still get the sense that they weren’t fully invested. It was as if they were just going through the motions.
As social was rapidly changing, marketing departments still were not clear where it fit into their overall marketing strategy. Was it a fad? Was it becoming its own marketing channel? Should we be investing marketing dollars into it? Should it be part of the overarching marketing strategy?
Image attribution: Priscilla Du Preez
Many brands demonstrate how little they think of social media by having an intern or a junior member of the marketing team manage their accounts. Although an intern might seem like an easy and cheap solution, having an inexperienced marketer manage your social presence can hurt your brand.
As audiences became more active and engaged, social became less about having a page and more about a developing a comprehensive strategy that aligned with the rest of the marketing strategy. Followers weren’t just consuming content but were interacting with it before becoming customers and brand advocates. Social was becoming a real-time focus group, customer service channel, and e-commerce store all in one. Within the marketing department, it was evident that the social media manager needed to be a dedicated full-time employee and not someone who just checked social when they “had time.”
Social touches customer service, sales, creative, and PR, which is why social needs to be top of mind throughout an organization. According to the most recent CMO Survey, marketers will be increasing their social media spend from 11 percent to 19 percent of their marketing budget over the next five years. Marketing executives need to start paying attention and realize that social media continues to evolve. If they don’t start investing financially and strategically, they will be falling behind.
Marketing leaders get hung up on the financial ROI, but there is additional value that social offers that can have an impact on the bottom line through brand awareness, customer satisfaction, and lead generation. The value these networks bring in terms of understanding your audience is incomparable to older methods of market research. Social can help identify target audiences and user behavior. Investing in the right social media monitoring tools for social team will allow brands to gather more information more efficiently, which in turn can help cut spend on focus groups, outside research, and other additional costs.
This also means that you need the right people engaging with your customers through social. Team members who know the tone and voice of the brand can answer questions in a timely manner and can connect to the right resources internally to find the answers they don’t know.
A great example of a brand who “gets it” is Reebok. A customer tweeted a mishap with a Reebok product and the fitness company (without being prompted) quickly offered to send him a new pair of shoes. Being able to connect with a consumer and resolve their problem on social can go a long way in brand awareness, customer retention, and possible customer acquisition.
— KB (@LAClippersGal14) December 27, 2017
Brands like Chipotle and JetBlue also do a fantastic job of bringing their personality and authenticity to their fans through social media, showing how brands can and should be utilizing social media to engage and build relationships with their customers. To further these initiatives, have a conversation with your CMO, find out what their priorities are, and then educate them on why they should invest in social media.
How can social earn a spot at the marketing table? Social media managers should be in constant communication with other departments to see how they can help amplify and assist. For example, they can work with the customer service teams to understand any reoccurring questions or issues that they can share on social and vice versa. They can align with PR departments on announcements that are being prepared. They can monitor social to report back to customer service and PR departments. It goes without saying that social and content marketing need to be tightly aligned. Social can prove their value by helping to distribute the content created by the content marketing department whether through paid channels or organically. Again, this is a two-way relationship where the social media manager can provide value and showcase how social can help elevate the goals of that department.
Brands have made progress in illustrating the value in social media. They have built social media teams, created social media command centers, and invested in social media analytics tools to help improve their digital and content marketing strategy. Obviously, brands with big budgets have an easier time investing in social media as opposed to mid-sized businesses that have to be more mindful of where they are investing their marketing spend. That being said, it is still important that social media managers are establishing their presence within an organization and making their case to upper management to get the resources in place to build out a successful strategy that aligns with the overall marketing plan.
It’s clear that social media is necessary for a successful digital marketing strategy. These networks are constantly evolving and changing, which is why the most successful marketers will be keeping up and adapting.
According to the American Marketing Association, marketing is defined as “. . . the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” There is a case to be made that social media, content, and digital marketing all fall under this definition and these will eventually be synonymous with the term “marketing.” The day when these siloes are broken down is coming soon.
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Featured image attribution: Campbell Boulanger