Obviously, social media is important and holds the potential for building better relationships with prospects and customers. Traditional marketing placed a premium on awareness-building and transactions, but has declined in importance due to a combination of message clutter, time-pressed consumers, fragmentation of media and the growth of people using the internet to research what others are saying about products and companies.
Nevertheless, what really concerns me is how “tactical” social media has become in recent years and how it has grown less-and-less strategic. It appears almost everyone on the social media provider side keeps looking for the latest tool or technique. If something doesn’t work, they simply abandon the approach and go for another without regard to strategy.
Social media today seems to be just a collection of curation, SEO/SEM, permalinks, long tail key words, meta descriptions and website crawling, click through conversation rates (to what we don’t know) and more. Moreover, when anyone “disses” social media, most assume it’s just driven by a desire to go back to “good ole days” of traditional marketing and they don’t “get it.”
What makes this worse is that some digital marketing providers don’t have a clue how to make social media effective and how it ties to a clients’ business strategy. I recently attended a social media presentation put on by top online agencies and when asked how they know if digital marketing drives clients’ sales the response was: “I don’t know” and you “just need to invest in it since it’s the right thing to do.”
No wonder, most CMOs struggle with social media. I think most want to use it, but don’t know how to bridge traditional marketing vs. digital marketing and aren’t getting a whole lot of help from providers.
To put all this in a fact-based driven perspective, Boston Consulting Group published an article based on a survey of CMOs in global Fortune 500 companies. The findings were quite interesting, some of which I’ve included below:
- Most companies do recognize the need to adopt new ways to reach consumers and build better relationships (i.e. websites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, mobile marketing, etc.). These tools are very efficient, free/cheap, and can easily measure traffic/activity (read efficiency).
- However, some companies are still just experimenting with digital marketing; while others have developed an infrastructure that can share data with relevant internal business groups. These companies usually spend >20% of their budgets on social media.
- Roughly 75% of all marketing executives in global Fortune 500 companies are still unsure where to best reach consumers via these new mediums. Moreover, 90% feel they don’t have the right metrics that can tie into business objectives.
- Marketers seem to think consumers want information or product reviews from websites. But consumers want marketers to give more discounts and/or access to purchasing products online vs. brick and mortar stores – this is a disconnect.
- Even the mighty Proctor & Gamble is redeploying marketing spend away from traditional media to digital since it’s more efficient and less costly. They announced recently they will lay off 1,600 people and are banking on digital ROI for long term savings. However, I bet P&G is also developing the internal infrastructure to capture the data and share it with relevant internal business groups to help change their business models.
- Outsourcing of social media initiatives to outside agencies is probably not best option given need for integrated brand messaging.
- More companies are adding IT capabilities to marketing management job descriptions. Marketing and IT are converging into one function. Marketers now need to learn digital in addition to traditional marketing skills to be effective going forward.
Based on this, a few conclusions come to mind:
- CMO’s need to better understand social media and how it works beyond just giving assignment(s) to outside agency(s). Simply outsourcing social media will not work. They need to know how to effectively use it for impact. CMO’s really need to know SEO and how consumers are talking about their company. They need to have the right strategy(s) and then develop the right social media tool(s) addressing those strategy(s). It also needs to be measurable to make sure it’s working. Developing the right kind of metrics will go a long way to proving social/digital marketing effectiveness. This might require testing of alternative approaches to see which works/doesn’t work and not just guess.
- When social media/digital marketing is used there needs to be a organized and well thought out consumer feedback loop to the organization. Comments from consumers, influencers, other stakeholders and communities need to be filtered back not only to marketing, but to customer service, sales, supply chain, finance and even engineering or R&D. You need an internal infrastructure to capture this information and be able to synthesize it for the organizations for needed changes in companies business models. There is a common misconception that social media is cheap….it is….but there is a huge labor cost involved in using the data to help change your business.
- Finally, using social media/digital marketing exclusively is probably not a good idea. A good business strategy will probably require a blend of BOTH traditional marketing and social media/digital marketing. We must remember digital marketing is a “slow burn” approach and in some cases won’t help building critical mass quickly. In some cases traditional advertising or promotions will help jump start a strategy while social/digital marketing will help build the brand in the long run. Using both to some degree is the best way to effectively grow your business, but again it needs to be driven by strategy and not the latest tool or technique.
Marketing is evolving and social/digital marketing is part of that evolution. We all need to learn how to use the new tools as well as refining the old.
About the Author: Rick Steinbrenner has led and managed leading global brands like General Mills, Kraft, Remington Products and Black & Decker. He is a Principal at Brand Marketing Advisors. To read more about Rick and his expertise, visit RickSteinbrenner.com.