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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The social media basics: What is it and what are its challenges? (Q&A)

Here's a summary of a recent Q&A with Nathan Al-Shehab on what social media marketing is, the challenges that face marketers trying to implement social into a large organisation and some general tips.

What is your definition of social media? What do you think it encompasses?

Social media is a broad category that includes:
- Social Marketing: Using social media, specifically Facebook, Twitter and video-sharing sites like YouTube to promote products.
- Social Commerce: An integration of social media and e-commerce. Examples of this include Group Buying and adding Ratings & Reviews into an e-commerce purchase path.
- Social Customer Service: Using Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Forums to engage directly with customers who have concerns or problems.
- Social CRM: Working with Fans, Followers, Likes and Connection for data capture purposes, which then allows you to look at insights, and then develop great content and one-to-one communications programs.

What are key trends in social media marketing?


If a marketer is asked “What is their favorite social media marketing activity?” they’re likely to talk about campaigns from Old Spice, Tippex or Will it Blend? Usually this is some form of video-sharing or visual communication that has been seeded through social media. This is the heart of what makes social media marketing so powerful – it’s an amplifier. It seeds your marketing message to a much wider audience and breathes life into it. So one of the big trends is how marketers can leverage this amplification effect. This will lead to a rise in “viral” videos being produced by big brands.

Another big trend is the rise of social commerce. Or more specifically, the rise in socialization of e-commerce. The best social commerce brand in the world is eBay – everything they do is fundamentally social. Buyers, sellers and products are rated, reviewed and is community-based. I envision that more big brands will add social sharing, ratings & reviews and other social media aspects into their sales experience.

What do you feel are main challenges to social media marketing?


The biggest challenge is the perceived lack of control. CEOs and senior marketers cannot control the message, reaction or where the campaign will lead to. This makes them wary of spending money in social (at least beyond simply buying Facebook ads), or trying to do more risky/innovative things.

How do you establish a target audience vs target medium for a particular product? / How do you ensure you target the correct audience?

Social media is much more reactionary. It’s not even really “media” when you compare social media platforms to traditional TV, print or even online advertising. So instead of blasting out a message to a set target market via TV, it’s about developing relevant content for your audience and using social media to spread it. In that respect, it’s a somewhat self-selecting media. If you’ve got great content, information, deals or entertainment your customers will find it and share it.

Which of your marketing strategies do you feel has the most impact?

Social video-sharing has the biggest potential impact. A good video or visual social media asset (like an infographic) can generate millions of views and can be interacted with by thousands of your customers. A lot of social media activity is one-to-one communication that is shared to a limited audience, whereas video and visual assets has a great chance to be shared to a mainstream and mass audience.

Why has social media marketing come about?

Social media marketing is a natural evolution of marketing. Social networks and the rise of “sharing” has been a cultural and industry trend. Marketing has simply adapted to this and has trying to figure out how to make money out of it.
 

What do you think will be the percentage split in 5 years time re: social media marketing vs your other existing marketing? What is the current split?

In the next few years, most brands will be spending around 50% of their marketing budgets in activities that are digital. I believe around 20% of this digital spend (or 10% of total advertising spend) will be devoted to social media marketing activities.

In terms of revenue, how much do you intend to spend on social media marketing this year and in 3 years time? Why do you think this is the case?

Marketing dollars follow sales. If one marketing vehicle or channel is delivering higher revenue, the budgets shift. I don’t believe social media as a standalone channel will generate a lot of sales but I strongly believe that social media will be used to amplify and share communications and marketing messages from other vehicles/channels. This is why it will get a greater percentage of budget and resources.

What are the threats to social media marketing?
There are no real threats as such, but the way social media marketing is measured is the biggest inhibitor to growth. At the moment, marketers are struggling with the ROI of social media, which is difficult to measure (at least compared to more direct response vehicles like Search Marketing or Email Marketing). Until this is resolved, or mindsets change, the growth of social media marketing will be slower than other forms of digital marketing.
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