Why Social Media Needs TV and TV Needs Social

Strengths and Weaknesses of Both Create Ideal Fit for the Future

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Every now and then, we come across a couple seemingly made for each other. Think of Barack and Michelle Obama, Jay -Z and Beyonce, or John Stamos and his array of hair products. Marketers are reaping the benefit of another match made in heaven, and as the industry evolves, these two will change the way each other operate: That's social media and television.

I'm not talking about second screen marketing; I'm referring to social's growing ability to provide what television doesn't, and television's ability to dispel the biggest argument against social. I had an opportunity to speak with social media leads at a few brands that are well versed in both mediums -- Jon Budd of Hyundai, Adam Kmiec of Campbell's Soup and Barbara Liss of Quaker Foods -- and it was clear that the symbiotic relationship between social and TV is on the minds of marketers worldwide.

Consider television's strengths: wide-reaching, immediate impact on sales proven through years of media-mix modeling and a universally accepted data provider. (Yes I just counted Nielsen as a strength; I'll explain later.) Now consider TV's greatest weaknesses: earned media and long-term benefit. Tracking the results of broadcast marketing is like looking at a heart rate monitor; a brand makes a media investment, impressions shoot up (directly proportionate to the dollars spent), and sales increase. Then as soon as dollars are out of the market, conversation and subsequent conversion drop significantly.

This is where social comes in. More and more brands are using social as a megaphone to bolster broadcast campaigns, driving earned media that boosts the heart rate while lowering the cost per impression. Furthermore, since people are always talking online, social can allow a brand to monitor and impact the conversation so that the heart rate never drops down. Therefore, television's short-term benefits seed long-term advocacy, with social serving as the soil. As Barbara Liss put it, "With the advent of social, brands now have strong loyalty-building opportunities to complement the messages on TV. And if done right, TV can enhance conversation."

That's not to say social is without flaws. The focus on social media is often around the oceans of accurate consumer data available, rather than its ability bring together and enhance traditional marketing tactics. Jon Budd suggests that social has been promoted as being measurable rather than as simply a great branding tool. "When digital first started up, it built itself up as being measurable at the bottom of the funnel instead of delivering on brand as broadcast did; measurement was digital's unique selling proposition. Social is falling into that same trap," said Budd.

But while data is one of social's biggest selling points, it may also be one of its greatest downfalls. Adam Kmiec brought up social's lack of data standardization: "Ask how many homes a commercial reached and you'll get one number, from one source. Ask someone how many impressions a social campaign delivered and you might get four different answers. This creates skepticism."

And therein lies my justification for praising Nielsen. Say what you will about its methodology and accuracy, but it's a universally accepted data provider that allows for fair comparisons. That's something social is sorely lacking, and Kmiec isn't the only one to express that . Liss went as far as to say, "There are 100 startups for every metric."

Here's where TV can save social from the data confusion and subsequent skepticism of ROI. Consider social as an amplification tool for a TV-heavy marketing plan and plug it into a media-mix model. While social isn't typically known to drive immediate sales, brands that use social to amplify broadcast activations drive low-cost impressions and increase the brand-relevant conversation. This drives CPI down, and the lift in sales driven by those social impressions can be easily measured by comparing sales data to media dollars spent, both with and without social support.

Several brands are already taking advantage of the complementary nature of the social and TV. Broadcast marketers are starting to create engaging, sharable content to leverage the long-term benefits of social, and social marketers are working more closely with broadcast teams to amplify reach and drive calls to action. As the mediums develop, we'll continue to see a shift in content strategy, and collaborative strategies will pay off for years to come.

Mike Mikho leads business development at Big Fuel, a full-service social media agency that takes brands from content to commerce. Find him on Twitter @MikeMikho.
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