Why Social Marketing Is No Longer 'A Dunk in the Dark'

Five Steps for Marketers to Rewrite the Social Playbook

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A majority of brands are missing out on social's ability to drive business results. While the social landscape has changed dramatically, many marketers haven't evolved their approaches to social media strategy, content, paid media and measurement to keep pace with new opportunites, putting them at risk of wasting money on approaches that simply are not built for today's communications environment.

For years -- yes, it's been years -- brands have been in hot pursuit of the always-on social strategy that transformed Oreo's social success into "a dunk in the dark." But the ongoing rise of content -- more than 27 million pieces of social content published every day -- on these platforms has also made "share of screen" harder to come by organically. Since then, social networks have evolved to become powerful media platforms, offering brands the potential for scale, reach and more sophisticated targeting, to put the right content in front of the right audiences. As a result, the bar has risen exponentially to compete for consumer attention and participation, and to meet it, brands must invest in a social strategy that combines more concentrated campaign-driven creative ideas with specialization in the data and media needed to ensure they're seen and engaged with. Success requires re-thinking the social marketing playbook.

Here's how:

1. Connected planning: Coordinate content and media further upstream.

With creative and media more closely aligned than ever, the connected planning process requires more efficiency among brands and their agency partners. Paid, earned and owned media should be planned together, even if executed separately. Getting alignment in the planning phase will provide more strategic insight, enabling marketers' investments in content and media to work harder together through a deeper, more holistic understanding of consumer expectations and behaviors. Better input will yield better output.

2. Quality content: Blow up the social content calendar model to focus on campaign-based content.

As the organic reach of social platforms diminishes, we must shift the balance in how brand creative is conceived, created, published, amplified and monitored. Speed does not trump quality. While there is still a time and place for one-off culturally relevant posts and reactive content opportunities, fewer, bigger activations and campaigns are yielding stronger results for clients. This new model ensures that a critical threshold of quality impressions is achieved, that content is seen and that the brand connection with consumers is strong.

3. Paid social: Reduce waste by amplifying content to the right target audiences.

Paid social -- either directly with platforms or through influencer partnerships -- is now absolutely required to achieve quality impressions and meaningful engagement with the right audiences on social platforms. When leveraged correctly, the advanced media targeting capabilities of Facebook, YouTube and new advertising products rolling out from Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram have the potential to be some of the most efficient, effective platforms in advertising. Interest-based, location-based, behavioral and device-based targeting enables marketers to reduce wasted impressions and reach higher value audience segments, as well as to deliver content with different messages, tones and visuals to different audiences concurrently.

4. Performance measurement: Measure the business impact of social marketing.

Moving from high-frequency content to a consolidated campaign approach might mean "going dark" on certain platforms at certain times. Getting to better social performance will require setting up the right measurement framework that evolves from focusing on social-only metrics, such as likes and impressions, to measuring business outcomes, like sales lift or perception change. By taking steps to invest in integrating the results of organic social listening, owned-channel analysis, survey data and conversion tracking, social impact can be measured beyond impressions and conversations.

5. A balanced mix: Consider the strategic role social can play in the broader marketing strategy.

Social marketing must be connected to other forms of media and marketing efforts. With the right mix, it has the power to be an effective and cost-efficient media platform. In some cases, it can even drive higher quality reach, better engagement and more ROI than other channels. As such, spend allocations and budget distribution should be monitored and optimized with greater frequency than in the past. Ultimately, the key is recognizing social as a platform that can scale a brand's story and experiences by targeting specific content to niche audiences to drive more participation and better results.

Integrated, campaign-based social marketing delivers greater value and impact when done right, but marketers must be willing to change course. The marketing mindset and playbook must evolve from standalone content to integrated campaigns. By shifting to connected planning, quality content, paid social amplification and better measurement, social will continue to yield strong results for marketers and strategically drive brands' marketing objectives. If done right, the opportunity to use social to communicate the right message, in the right place, at the right time by integrating creative content and strategic planning has never been better.

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