By: Katy Howell, Chief Executive Officer at Immediate Future https://immediatefuture.co.uk
Strange as it may seem, there is a class system within marketing. A pecking order of disciplines. It sits in the subconscious of many marketers, and it is a tormentor of some, while others actually revel in their lowly position.
Unquestionably the communications royalty are the makers of television advertising, despite the diming influence of what they actually produce. But the bragging rights of the lower orders is often hotly contested. Direct marketing often claims parity with above the line cousins, and public relations tries to assume a lofty position, something that journalists frequently find difficult to fathom. Strangely it is not unusual to hear field marketers revel in weariness that they are the Friday afternoon call also rans, only needed as a late addition to something more important.
However, in relative terms it is actually social media that is consigned to Cinderella status on the bottom rung. In strategic importance and the financial investment it receives against potential return it can provide, it is to be found propping up promotional marketing and experiential.
It is true that all companies use social media, but think about what it is frequently tasked with achieving, who is responsible, and the budget. Often it is handled in house. Something that junior staff do – of course, because they spend so much leisure time on it, and therefore surely must be experts. If an agency is employed there is usually plenty of enthusiastic and often creative competence, but strategists and planners with significant experience are thin on the ground, and don’t ask about psychographic database building and segmentation skills.
The result is the use of social media as a tactical format to promote events, offers and feel good factors. But using social media in this way is a bit like turning back the clock and asking Usain Bolt to run a sack race. He’d do a good job for sure, but the waste in potential would be almost criminal.
Consider a medium that can do the following, and do it consistently and effectively:
Build large scale brand awareness, drive long term sales, create databases based on tens of millions of attributions, build lookalike buyer audiences, run effective remarketing campaigns, message targets to a fine degree including optimum times of day, create peer recommendation, grow loyalty through resonating dialogue, implement measurable promotions, and closely track consumer behaviour. It can also to a large degree, replace the loss of third party cookies.
If all of these benefits were presented within a new marketing medium it would come as a major bombshell. Marketing plans would be rewritten, the best practitioners would be urgently sought, and new finance would be rushed through to pay for it.
That social media’s potential is squandered, is to some degree understandable. The medium gets a bad press as the repository of images of cute cats, home to cranks and conspiracy theorists.
It is to this backdrop that CMOs have to decide whether social media should be applied to its best advantage using a science based approach to drive brand performance, and whether the necessary budget can be found for it. But how to explain to an FD that more money is needed?
The phrasing of the question would be better put a different way. Can a brand afford not to have a social strategy? What are the financial consequences of going without? There is no shortage of companies – often start ups – that have used social media as a corner stone to catapult themselves to major success. Yet there are no examples of embedded social strategy not making a significant difference to the bottom line.
Brands like new starter Bloom & Wild, used analysis to create prospect target social databases that lead to enormous success. In the case of the fledgling online flower seller, it generated £10 million revenue in three years. Bigger more established brands that are serious about social are delivering six figure returns that are aiding growth in a world where consumer attention and loyalty is fractured.
No other media can get close to that level of transformative return. But it cannot be gained from employing a junior marketer with a penchant for Instagram, and nor does it come via a local agency that talks the right language, but has no example of metrics led work.
Now is a good time to put the case for investment in social media. In the search for a third party cookie replacement, the pixels used by social media fulfil many of the roles of cookies, including enabling remarketing and creating lookalike audiences.
Social media may be the Cinderella media for now because of how most brands currently use it. In time its standing will rise simply because it can do more things more effectively and at a better rate of return than other marketing channels. If there is any doubt just consider what medium television broadcasters use most to promote programming.
By Katy Howell, Chief Executive Officer, of independent social media agency, Immediate Future https://immediatefuture.co.uk