Panel: Social Media Should Be Weaved Into All Marketing
Don't think of social media as a separate marketing channel, but as a fabric running through all advertising and promotional efforts. That was the central theme that emerged from a panel at the OMMA Global conference Monday bringing together social marketing experts from brands, agencies and advisory firms.
The key isn't so much how to unlock the secrets of social media as to figure out how it plugs into campaigns across other media. Rob Master, North American media director for Unilever, recalled being flummoxed at a conference two years ago when asked how unsexy brands like Hellmann's Mayonnaise and Lipton Tea could harness the growing popularity of online social networks.
Looking back, he wondered: "Could I have been that unimaginative? The answer is 'Yes, I was.' At Unilever, we've gotten a lot more focused and a better understanding of where the consumer is going," said Master.
He added that the consumer packaged goods giant now looks at social media as playing "a role underneath everything we're doing."
Jordan Bitterman, senior vice president of media and content at Digitas, echoed that view when asked about how American Express approaches the social media marketplace. "It's very important that we look at social media as part and parcel of distribution," he said. "It's not something where the client should say: "Is Twitter on my media plan? It's not something that can be disaggregated from other campaigns."
The comments also reflect the embrace of social networks as "earned media," used to generate favorable publicity and word-of-mouth through things like Facebook "fan" pages or a Twitter feed that are not part of paid media. These platforms can be used to support broader ad campaigns without marketers having to cough up more money to publishers.
That's not to say that social media marketing doesn't require internal company investments in staffing and education. Master explained that Unilever has committed significant resources to boost the institutional understanding of social media, including a day-and-a-half-long off-site meeting on the topic. It's also in the midst of a companywide education effort on using Twitter.
Because of the greater emphasis on social media, it's also a good time for junior folks to move up the corporate ladder faster. "Young people in your organization are more important than ever," noted Master.
Whether or not marketers boast a host of Facebook or Twitter mavens, the critical skill they should hone is listening, according to Deborah Schultz, a partner in the innovation practice at The Altimeter Group, a consulting firm focusing on social media.
"The amount of time in telling and selling mode is shifting to listening," she said. That translates into more gathering and analyzing consumer feedback through social sites and relaying that information back into the company.
That transition may be difficult for agencies to make as well as their clients because of their traditional fee-for-service compensation structure. "The fundamental problem is the agency model of remuneration," pointed out Phil Cowdell, head of Mindshare North America. In other words, they want to get paid big fees for creating more traditional campaigns that rely chiefly on paid advertising.