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The Seismic Shifts in Social Marketing... and 5 Things Brands Should Be Doing Differently


INFLUENCER: AnalogFolk's Mike Harris reacts to the UK parliamentary report that described Facebook as 'digital gangsters'

The Seismic Shifts in Social Marketing... and 5 Things Brands Should Be Doing Differently

Fifteen years after being founded, Facebook is still a strong force in the social marketing landscape - but the platform’s reputation is changing. Its user base is ageing, as the youth flock to ‘cooler’, more private channels, and there are stiff challenges from other established and emerging platforms for media budget. And this week, Facebook and its executives were labelled 'digital gangsters' in a UK parliamentary report over their handling of data.

However, Facebook is not the only platform under fire – as investment continues to grow in social marketing, the return on investment (ROI) is under intense scrutiny.

The last five years have generated much greater attention to the influence and impact of social platforms – among brands, users, marketing agencies and the platforms themselves – affecting approaches to social marketing in five significant ways.

1. Rebuilding trust by looking beyond data

Events in 2016 brutally exposed how social media algorithms and sharing mechanics can be manipulated to spread misinformation – on a political stage with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and through a marketing lens via bots / bought followers artificially inflating influencer value. The latter has been abused to such an extent that Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed warned the industry last year to “take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever”.

While the platforms have a duty to tighten their systems to prevent this abuse, it also falls upon marketers to look beyond the data being provided, and combine a quantitative approach with qualitative research to get a more rounded insight.

2. Upholding brand reputation with more regulation

As public pressure continues to mount on social platforms to take more responsibility for the content they host, the greater the impact will be on brands due to what can and cannot be communicated to audiences.

While Facebook attempts to tighten content policy and moderate two billion people with AI support, UK watchdogs are demanding influencers be clearer when promoting brand products.

It’s imperative for brands to not only be up to speed with ongoing legal changes, but also increase their efforts to selfregulate and ensure they are engaging with audiences responsibly and transparently.

3. Tuning into specialist social platforms

The social media ecosystem has developed into a need-based engagement model, where users will frequently switch between platforms. The latest news? Go to Twitter. Home decorating inspiration? Scroll through Pinterest.

As the ecosystem becomes increasingly complex, the various media opportunities across the expanded portfolio are becoming more attractive. For example:

- Reddit, the forum-inspired community platform, announced a new CPC ad format for brands to engage with their audiences

- Nike recently launched their self-lacing shoes live on streaming platform Twitch to reach a younger audience (55% of its 140 million-a-month audience is aged 18-34)

- Online game Fortnite is redefining the concept of a social media platform, partnering with DJ Marshmello to host a DJ set within the game and attracting an audience of 10 million players without a penny spent on advertising through traditional social marketing platforms

- At AnalogFolk, we are currently working with Nike to connect and engage a younger female audience in Milan through Tik Tok.

Opportunities are continuing to expand beyond mass broadcast ads on traditional social marketing platforms. More brands are choosing to split media budget to build meaningful connections with audiences on platforms with a more focused function.

4. Facing the future of ‘anonymous’ engagement

Due to algorithms killing organic reach and growing privacy concerns, the days of Facebook Community Pages, where brands could track freely-given positive and negative feedback, are gone. The younger demographics (i.e. Gen Z) are the most passive social media users, moving to platforms that offer ephemeral, visual communication.

Anonymous yet open community platforms are a treasure trove of audience insight, yet are often overlooked by marketers. The most famous of these is Reddit, which has 330 million monthly active users.

The scope anonymous platforms can bring brands and marketers need to be better realised, as they can allow a deeper understanding of brand perceptions, potential growing crises and opportunities to positively engage audiences.

5. Creating social activity with business value

Last year, approximately £3.3 billion was spent on social ads in the UK. That’s a 24% increase on 2017 and second place only to TV as the highest media spend, set to double by 2023. As such, there is increasing scrutiny on ROI from clients – not only in terms of how effective campaigns are in reaching specific brand / marketing objectives, but also understanding where it’s more efficient to bring workstreams in-house.

Unilever CMO Keith Weed discusses the advantages of building U-Studios to keep up with the step change in need to generate more content without blowing budgets, and streamlining processes: “You have all the experts around the same table, including our agency partners and, via U-Studio, an end-to-end team, working in real time and making changes as they go along.”

As a result, agency roles will be more focused on helping brands imagine improved ways to use social to solve business and marketing problems.

With 39.3% of marketers worrying they are unable to prove the impact of social, there is an opportunity for agencies to lead the way in guiding clients to better link social activity to business value.

Social is growing up, and with this comes the responsibility to play by the new rules. As social marketers strive to prove the value of their efforts, it’s vital to look beyond performance graphs and best practice guides. We need to embed ourselves into the ever-changing flow of conversation across established and emerging social platforms, to better understand the evolving opportunities to meaningfully connect with audiences.

Mike Harris is associate social director at AnalogFolk

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AnalogFolk, Thu, 21 Feb 2019 14:19:22 GMT