The rise of social media in recent years has transformed the advertising industry, not just online, but to some extent offline as well. These days, most businesses use social media in some fashion, either as a free resource, or as paid advertising as a part of their annual marketing budget.
The amount allocated to social is rising too, although at the moment the industry could do with a firm ROI analytics model that can be used as an industry standard. However, this will come and if you consider that social was thought as being ‘non-provable’ in terms of engagement and conversion just a few years ago, it’s clear that changes have already taken place.
A recent study from analysts at Gartner looked at how teams manage marketing budgets and how these are expected to change this year, as compared to last. The U.S. Digital Marketing Spending Report, 2013 also looked at what activities are most likely to lead to success.
On average, companies spent around 10.4% of their annual revenue on marketing in 2012. These budgets were expected to increase by 5.7% in 2013 with digital marketing continuing to gain momentum.
This means that marketing are putting even more focus this year on content creation, social and mobile marketing. 50% of those asked said that they outsource their digital marketing and that digital is one of the top two priorities, with social media marketing at the number three most important spot.
This, Gartner say, means that “we can clearly see that the current marketing mix focuses on boosting the brand's digital presence”. Social media is one of the primary channels which marketers use to strengthen brand personalities.
Coca Cola and social media
One of the most successful social media campaigns has been that of Coca Cola, but debate erupted back in March 2013 when a study commissioned by the organisation found that “online buzz has no measurable impact on short-term sales”.
However, according to Coca Cola’s Wendy Clark, senior VP-integrated marketing communications and capabilities, whilst the findings were true in isolation, they should not “obscure the role that social media plays”.
Social, she says, plays a crucial role in marketing, being central to the combination of “owned, earned, shared and paid media connections”. This is because social creates market impact and engagement which increases the strength of the brand.
She goes on to say that in Facebook beta testing, Coca Cola have successfully been able to track “closed-loop sales” when it comes to the relationship with online exposure and in-store sales “with very promising initial results”.
Different mediums remain important
Whilst the impact of social media is somewhat measurable, Wendy maintains that a good mix of marketing across a variety of mediums is vital.
“We know our target consumers -- teens and young adults -- are consuming media on multiple screens in single sessions. This means the TV is on, a laptop is open and a smartphone is in hand,” she says.
“For marketers, this requires having a single, integrated conversation across those screens. When we do this well, we create significantly higher impact than any of those screens could do on their own.
This isn’t always easy to get right however and sometimes requires extensive testing to see what works best. However, for Coca Cola, these kind of integrated campaigns are the future, it seems and according to Wendy, has social at its heart in order to “fuel better outcomes and impact”.
Choosing social platforms
Which social platforms a business chooses to advertise, free or paid, on will largely depend on the nature of what they do. LinkedIn can be seen as a must for any company and individual, as you’re communicating directly with other business people.
Facebook is seen to be predominantly B2C platform, but it does have its uses for B2B, especially when it comes to selling services. However, for manufacturers of engineering parts, for example, it will have a minimal impact – for that kind of industry, blogging and content marketing directly to the industry is most likely to be effective.
Twitter is seen to be one of the most useful social media sites for all kinds of businesses, whilst Pinterest is one which depends on what visuals you can use to drive traffic to your site.
These are far from the only choices though and it’s really worth putting together a strong marketing plan, complete with research when considering social media marketing.
Should I pay?
Advertising on social media can be effective, although due to the analytics that are provided, there is no current industry standard model for proving ROI. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t work. At the very least, advertising will allow a business to target more effectively and gain a better chance of reaching the right audience.
Those who don’t have the budget to pay still benefit massively from using social as a free marketing tool though, and it should be a large part of any marketer’s arsenal.
Social works so well because of word-of-mouth advertising, so naturally the more ‘reach’ your campaign has, the better. This in many cases, especially Facebook, can really only be achieved by paid advertising, whether it’s display, sponsored stories or both.
The best approach to social
Social media has changed the power dynamics between the advertiser and the consumer, effectively handing the power to the latter. This means that any good social campaign has to talk in the language of social, which is more personal and much less formal than other types of advertising.
This means that companies can no longer afford to ignore complaints and in order to grow, must interact with customers on a personal, often and ongoing basis. Even big corporations that get this wrong can find their brand seriously damaged and it’s important for this reason to get it right.
This means not disabling the means customers have to contact you (such as a Facebook wall and messaging) as those who really want to post a gripe will find a way. When they do, often they are more frustrated than ever at not being allowed a voice and will be twice as insistent.
This is peculiar to social media and has changed how companies and customers interact, with the most successful having dedicated social media managers to ensure that customer questions are answered in a timely manner.
Social has become one of the most important aspects to digital marketing and it continues to evolve rapidly, with more advertising options added, better analytics and software designed to help manage it also growing.