The digital revolution that has taken place across all aspects of marketing is most succinctly characterised by the loss of brand control experienced by marketers.
Brands were keen to adapt to social media due to its low-cost nature when delivering against campaign objectives. However, many professionals failed to note the egalitarian nature of social media channels, directly contrasting more traditional forms of marketing up to that point.
The brands that initially reaped the greatest benefits from social media were those who truly bought into the concept and developed strategies to enhance their consumers experience online. Marketers today are still facing many of the same issues, I will look back at some past cases to look at the strategies which some of the most successful brands on social media have utilised.
Back in the naughties, Web 2.0 technologies spread across the globe seemingly overnight. Many experts in the marketing industry viewed social media as the holy grail, a way to truly build strong and enduring relationships with their customers. These same social media channels offer organisations and brands the opportunity to engage and listen in on their target audience. Customer relationships can be further enhanced by collecting in-depth information which enables micro-targeting and customised messaging.
Despite offering these opportunities to marketers, social media biggest impact initially was to level the playing field, reducing the role and impact of brands to just another actor in the network, fighting to be heard. In a forum which was built on communication and the sharing of information, many brands were initially viewed as invasive and their attempts to sell their product/service was rejected out of hand.
The biggest challenge facing marketers initially is the concept of peer to peer communication inherent in social media. Transforming traditional marketing strategies in the social media forum is only likely to alienate your consumers.
Effectively utilising social media requires marketers to accept a level of co-creation with their target audience. Unsurprisingly this can be a difficult balancing act, the change from solo creators to active moderators of brand content can be a nerve-racking transition. Being overly restrictive comes across as being inauthentic thereby reducing engagement, while too little restriction can lead to your brand being perceived in a way which is at odds with the desired image.
It is clear the marketers are still struggling with similar problems, problems ich are only exacerbated by the changes in technology and the increasing complexity of the consumer buying process. Research recently carried out by IBM indicated that under half of marketing managers surveyed believed that they were fully prepared to manage the challenges presented by social media. In spite of this, marketing managers are devoting more resources than ever to these channels. CMO survey research shows that marketing departments are planning on doubling their social media spend over the next five years.
These two studies provide an interesting picture of the current social media landscape. However, important lessons can be learned from brands who successfully navigate the digital minefield. The most effective social media strategies are able to integrate consumer-focused content into their marketing mix, thus providing compelling and authentic brand stories.
Proctor and Gamble provide an excellent example of the power of social media, they co-created content in the form of a video response campaign on YouTube. They were able to effectively reposition the Old Spice brand and open it up to an entirely new audience.
Mountain Dew created a campaign which looked to tap into the collective intelligence of their consumer communities. As part of the campaign, fans generated new flavour ideas which Mountain Dew then went produced in small quantities. The flavours were then sent off to fans with camcorders and they were encouraged to upload videos discussing the experience with the brand a product. This created enormous engagement and put their brand at the centre of the cultural conversation. This campaign although carried out in 2009 contained two elements in particular which are two of the biggest keywords for 2016, video content and brand influencers.
Video is set to dominate social media platforms for the forcible future. A Cisco white paper predicts that by 2019 almost 80% of all consumer traffic will be dedicated to video consumption. To be successful it is important to provide an integrated experience for consumers across channels which tells the story of the brand in an organic way.
Mountain Dew also effectively utilised brand influencers as part of their campaign. This is seen as being extremely important over the coming year with 95% of marketers stating that influencer marketing boosts awareness while 75% believe it generates sales leads. An influencer should be in essence the anthropomorphized image of the brand, having all of the traits which you want your consumers to see in the brand.
In order to build strong relationships if is more important than ever to listen to your target audience. Even more importantly, with consumer buying behaviour becoming ever more complex, marketers need to effectively track consumer movements across devices like never before. You will see greater and greater benefits as tracking technologies become more refined.
Despite its challenges, social media is a fertile ground when incorporated within strategies aimed at creating an integrated user experience which provides extra value to the consumer outside of the product or service being sold
Want to learn more about social media in the new age of digital? Join us at the 3XE Digital Data, Mobile & Social Media Marketing Conference taking place on February 9th, in Croke Park.