Get Serious: How Social Media Became a Big Budget Marketing CategoryKevin ShivelyBlogger ExtraordinaireSimply Measured
As a marketing channel, social media is in its adolescence.
And no, that doesn’t mean that we should all start wearing JNCO Jeans and smoking clove cigarettes while complaining that our parents don’t understand us. Adolescence comes from the Latin word meaning “to grow up,” and that’s exactly where we find ourselves today: growing up.
Social Media Marketing Has Outgrown “Kid Stuff”
In the early years of social marketing, our CMOs and VPs didn’t know what to do with us. We were the proverbial step-child, and they weren’t really sure how to raise us. What were we supposed to do? How were we supposed to interact with the other marketing children? We were different, so they didn’t hold us to the same standards as the other kids.
Somewhere along the line, our CMOs and VPs joined parenting groups with other CMOs and VPs, and they talked about what this whole “social media” thing was really about. They started to realize that we weren’t so different from their other kids, and started setting some ground rules. This sent social marketing into a growth spurt.
Today, social marketing is coming into its own. We’re held accountable for complex programs, expected to collaborate with other marketing teams, and working to drive real value in new ways. We’re growing up, and our understanding of the social marketing process reflects this.
Social Media Is a Functional Marketing Category
When social media marketing first emerged as a category, there weren’t standards for experience or expertise. Companies hired young staff and interns to “Tweet and post to Facebook” but had no goals, process, or understanding of the networks they were using.
Those of us who work in the social space today know that this is no longer the case. There may be plenty of young folks still working in social, but the level of professionalism and integration with other marketing goals are much higher, and as a result, budgets are bigger.
According to CMO Survey, social media marketing budgets will increase by 128% over the next five years, becoming 21% of the overall marketing budget.
Social is now viewed as a legitimate channel in the marketing mix, which means there are three distinct needs, just as there are in other areas of digital marketing:
The ability to define and plan a social strategy.
The ability to execute on that strategy.
The ability to measure the success of the strategy and execution.
No marketing strategy is complete without coming full circle. In order to execute tactics, marketers have to plan a strategy, and in order to plan, they have to understand how their efforts make an impact.
This framework is being applied to social media more and more. In the marketing software space, I see this every day. Marketing teams are investing in better social analytics software to enable the planning and measurement processes, and sophisticated publishing tools to fuel their execution.
In addition, both the analytics and publishing software are getting more sophisticated. We don’t have all of the answers yet, but we’re working alongside marketers to solve these challenges and develop solutions.
Social Media is an Integrated Category
Social media is no longer an outsider when it comes to digital marketing. It hasn’t been for years, but it continues to become more and more entrenched in the core functionality of digital programs.
As social marketers, we can’t afford to operate like we’re still independent from the other parts of our digital programs. We have an opportunity to work with, learn from, and add value to a number of other digital marketing channels. By integrating social marketing campaigns with other marketing campaigns, we’re able to create a seamless brand presence, more effective customer journey, and develop insight around our customers and prospective audience.
A difficult part of social marketing is that there are many terms and definitions that differ from our other marketing counterparts. This is a growing pain that every new technology or process has to go through. It’s on us, as social marketers, to educate our CMOs, CDOs (Chief Digital Officers), and VPs of Marketing so they understand what we do, how we do it, and what success “looks like.”
This isn’t an easy challenge, but as processes are formalized and our ability to tie data together becomes more accessible, the challenge is less daunting than it was in the past. Social terminology is becoming more widely understood across marketing teams, and the ability to connect the dots between organic social marketing, SEM and paid social, web content, and email marketing is getting stronger by the day.
Social Analytics Is Fueling Strategy
When companies first started adopting websites, they didn’t know how to measure success. Then, web analytics came about. When email was first utilized as a legitimate marketing channel, success metrics weren’t locked in, but email analytics emerged to help marketers develop successful strategies and nurture flows for potential customers and leads. Social analytics has followed a similar pattern.
Social analytics have progressed beyond basic counts of comments, favorites, and Retweets to give us real insight about our social programs. With the data available to marketers growing daily, marketers are able to fuel their entire strategy by focusing on the planning and measurement components of analysis.
With this insight, social programs are easier to tie to other marketing channels, easier to tie to real business goals, and easier to improve and optimize on a daily basis.
Social Marketing is Not Done Growing
While the level of sophistication among social marketers has continued to grow, this doesn’t mean our evolution is complete. If I stopped growing during adolescence, my wife would have even more cause to question my judgement, and no one wants that. Marketing programs constantly evolve, and social media is no exception. The real challenge will be for us, as social marketers, to understand the relationships and inter-workings of other digital marketing channels, develop a common language with other teams, and continue to measure and improve our programs.
By keeping these things top of mind, we’re able to drive real value from social media, and become an invaluable part of the marketing organization.
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