For good and bad reasons social media marketing has continued to grab industry headlines this past year, but how are serious marketers changing their strategies as these platforms evolve? As consumers spend increasing time on social networks and apps new marketing opportunities are clearly being created, even though we should be cautious about throwing away traditional marketing channels or principles.
There’s probably never been a more interesting time to be a marketer, nor more new opportunities to build brands, but there’s also probably never been so many ways to completely waste marketing time and effort. With the Google and Facebook duopoly already representing three quarters of the US online display ad market it’s clear that having a sophisticated strategy for these platforms can set you up well for your overall digital marketing approach. Here are five ways in which I think advanced marketers should be adapting their strategies going into 2017.
1. Kill content calendars
It’s not that you shouldn’t plan your content ahead of time, but you should do so on your terms not based on arbitrary events and a sense of needing to post. Plan your content around your communication priorities, your key sales moments and when you most need to be front of mind for consumers; above all plan your content around your budgets and only create what you’ll have money to promote.
Desperately trying to post something about every topical event is a sure fire way to be lost in the noise, and is irrelevant to most brands unless it happens to be their positioning.
Similarly, any sense that you have to post at a certain regularity to reach/appease your fans is nonsense, sadly they aren’t sat around waiting to hear from you. Even advanced content approaches like YouTube’s ‘Hero, Hub, Hygiene’ concept only work when supported by similar paid media plans.
2. Plan your media together
Social media channels have their nuances and their quirks but at the end of the day they are another channel whereby advertisers can get a message in front of consumers. You may need a different content approach but there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be thinking of how your social channels fit in with (and build reach alongside) the other channels in your mix.
If you’re a big enough advertiser to buy TV spots then it’s definitely time to embrace a more open ‘AV’ strategy, using YouTube, Facebook and other online video platforms to extend reach to lighter TV viewers.
That said, although there are many strong arguments to be shifting money into digital and social it’s not so clear that that money should come from TV, which often still delivers the most effective reach and ROI.
3. Adapt content to platforms
While you may be able to plan your media together that doesn’t mean the content can be the same. It’s a hugely different environment to be sat back on the sofa watching an hour long TV programme with integrated ad breaks, to scrolling down your newsfeed past occasional promoted posts, to playing a YouTube video and seeing an ad you can skip after five seconds.
In the latter case you can pretty much guarantee 90% of your audience WILL skip as soon as they can, so if your brand and some of your message isn’t right up front what can they possibly take away?
On Facebook the vast majority of people will see less than a couple of seconds as they scroll past, so whilst the platform may be ‘video’ dominated it is often simple animations or subtly moving ‘cinemagraphs’ that actually best communicate there. Make less content, but focus on making it work harder.
4. Measure what actually matters
It was a pretty messy year for social media measurement with Facebook, and later others, making several well-publicised announcements about accidental errors in their methodologies. That in all of these discussions no one talked about likes, comments or shares should be a red flag if you still are: these vanity measures have consistently been shown to be disconnected from any actual business results.
Speaking of which, while reach figures and watch times are a more relevant proxy they have their own challenges – if people are only watching two seconds of your video on Facebook is it a failure? Or is it actually still managing to deliver in that time? Big advertisers are increasingly relying on third parties (eg Moat) to verify the viewability of their content and this will bubble up some tough questions. Ultimately we need to be looking beyond reach to how content is resonating and the eventual reaction it is causing. In other words relying more heavily on direct brand and sales research.
Interim digital measures are always going to be hard to compare like for like between channels, if you can get to the actual real world results then that’s something far more concrete.
5. Don’t be afraid of the dark
For a few years ‘dark social’ has loomed at the edge of marketing conversations as a potential threat to social advertising – it refers to private sharing by email, message or mobile app where it becomes hard for a content owner to track how they are being shared. While sharing typically represents a small part of total reach there’s really no need to be afraid of consumers’ choosing to do so in different ways. Many people are now realising they have over-extended their communities, that sharing creates a permanent public trail and that they can be held accountable for everything they post; instead people are embracing more tailored groups of friends, family, work colleagues and more in messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messenger.
At the end of the day if they still find your content interesting, noteworthy and valuable they’ll still choose to share it here, though the more personal a channel becomes the more personal the content might need to be. Snapchat Lenses and Filters are an example whereby brands can truly be part of an individual’s ‘dark’ sharing.
Jerry Daykin is global digital partner at Carat. He tweets @jdaykin