Is the honey moon is over? Has resentment started creeping in to our love affair with social media? Reading the tirades of Mark Ritson and others on the eve of Facebook’s IPO it would seem a backlash is evident. So after all the initial excitement, where have things gone wrong and how can we find a grounded way forward?
One simple reason for the backlash is a lack clarity regarding what we mean by social media and the role it can play not just in the marketing mix, but in the wider business. Critically, social media has a number of use cases – reflecting the different roles it can play. Moreover, unlike traditional broadcast channels, social media unlocks multi-model communication enabling citizens to easily create and share their own content.
Ritson refers to this capacity, yet applies board brush strokes in his dismissals. It is inappropriate to say ‘ ‘treat it like any campaign’ when social media being used for customer service, to host a brand community, or to gather intelligence to inform npd. Indeed the business case/roi is extremely strong in these situations so it is irresponsible to write them off. New opportunities for brands require new methods of evaluation and measurement.
Social plays with other media – it does not replace them
If used in a marketing campaign, in many cases, social will not ‘compete’ (say, in terms of reach) and was never meant to. Typically it is best used as a complimentary channel in an integrated campaign and as part of a longer term brand strategy. Whilst some popular global brands (e.g. Burberry) are capable of social-only product launches, most brands would struggle to get the necessary reach using social only. In fact, it is the interplay between paid for advertising and earned and owned where the richness lies.
Savvy marketers understand this fact and how things are going to get even more ‘mashed up’ with our increasingly converging culture. Advertising fuels online conversations about brands just as much as customer conversations deliver insights about customer needs and behaviours. Increasingly we are seeing earned media integrated into owned and paid media as the voice of the customer can be more powerful and persuasive than the brands’. The question is not about social being pitted against trad media but about traditional media becoming more social.
What is fascinating about our current media landscape is the nuances (plurality) created by social media. The fact that we are in a post-broadcast age where customer now have a voice means a reframing of comms is required. Some of old rules still apply, but new ones also need to created.