At the Digital Marketing Conference

Marketers Struggle to Get a Firm Grip on Social Media

Panelists Impressed by Runaway Growth and New Options for Communication, but Remain Wary

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NEW YORK ( -- If you just happen to be one of those people who think they have social media and marketing all figured out, don't tell Eric Plaskonos. He believes they're "fooling themselves."
Eric Plaskonos
Eric Plaskonos Credit: Scott Gries

"Just when you believe you have it figured out and try to expand [the campaign], it falls apart, or sometimes you try and implement it into another area of the company that wants to experiment and it doesn't work," said Mr. Plaskonos, director of brand communications, Philips Electronics North America, which has had a good deal of success in the space with its Norelco body-grooming campaign. "So each time, you have to just try and build on past experiences and take a macro view and address it on a case-by-case basis. It's a continual learning process on our side, and in a way that can cause a lot of the hesitancy that could keep you from going to the next step."

Experiments take time
Mr. Plaskonos was taking part in a panel called "Making Social Media & Marketing Work" at yesterday's Ad Age Digital Marketing Conference. Another panelist, Michael Barrett, executive vice president and chief revenue officer of Fox Interactive Media, said "most" companies are experimenting and trying to integrate social media and marketing into the marketing mix and that companies unfairly get a bad rap for not having figured it out just yet.
Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett Credit: Scott Gries

"Social media has come on fast, and it now exceeds search in terms of activity and popularity," Mr. Barrett said. "And we all tend to feel as though the agencies and marketers don't get it, but if you think about everything they need to process and how new it is ... it's a learning process. Once something moves from being a one-hit wonder to having multiple success stories, it becomes its own category and gets its own line item in a budget, and then starts to grow over time. But at the end of the day the reality is we are still all working on it together and it's grown more than the prior year, so it's not a bad thing."

Airline has good approach
David Armano, VP-creative, Critical Mass, said he had a good interaction with a marketer in the social-media space on his way to the conference. "It took me two touches on the kiosk to get my boarding pass on Southwest on my way here," Mr. Armano said. And wanting to tell people about the expediency with which he was able to board his flight, he wrote about it on Twitter. Little did he know that Southwest would be watching.
David Armano
David Armano Credit: Scott Gries
"Three hours later Southwest replied to me, saying, 'Glad to hear you a good experience,'" he said. "I had a good experience, and then it was reinforced with the personalized message." Mr. Armano believes this is exactly what the social-media space should be used for, "facilitating that human connection. And I don't see a lot of marketers doing that -- I see them asking, 'How do you monetize and how do you advertise?'"

Colleen Decourcy, chief digital officer, TBWA Worldwide, said it's a mistake for marketers to try and categorize social media and marketing as advertising or PR. She believes social-media assignments are still up for grabs and should be given to the discipline best suited for each particular assignment. "It should go to who can best manage the activity, because it's a completely different approach to communicating with people," Ms. Decourcy said. "Social networks can be like phone centers without the scripts."
Troy Young
Troy Young Credit: Scott Gries

"We're learning it's not always actually the same [discipline]," Mr. Plaskonos said. "The best place to have it reside is closest to the content that's being created and is most interesting to your consumer."

Troy Young, CMO, VideoEgg, said social media breaks marketers free of the constraints imposed upon them by the 30-second commercial. "But now marketers are saying,'Engage with our message,'and it's forcing them to create experiences that are utilitarian and entertaining," Mr. Young said. "Making that work systematically is a real challenge."
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