Expert Notes Few Marketers Do Social Media Well

Starbucks

Marketers spent $65.2 billion on Internet advertising in 2008, and Geoff Ramsey, co-founder of research firm eMarketer, told the Association of National Advertisers' Social Media conference attendees last week that while that number is going to grow dramatically in coming years, many marketers don't know how to include social media in the mix.

EMarketer predicts an 11% growth rate this year in digital media spend with search increasing 16% this year, and display ads up 13%. "You need these two pistons, search and display (banner, buttons, etc.) to keep the Internet economy healthy," said Ramsey. But he illustrated how little-prepared marketers are for what's happening in social media by asking for a show of hands among the marketers in the packed auditorium for those who "have a handle on social media." Not a hand went up.

Sixty percent of marketers, he said, are doing "something" with social media (the other 40% are "anti-social"), and 40% to 80% of them are boosting spend on social media this year.

Ramsey says brands should use such platforms -- Twitter, for instance -- to do less talking and more listening. Also, he pointed out, Twitter's user numbers are a bit misleading: while 12% of U.S. adults use Twitter, only one-fifth of those have ever posted a Tweet; most of those have sent one Tweet so far; and 90% of Twitter volume comes from 10% of users.

But, he says, a look at how one QSR uses Twitter is instructive. "Starbucks, which has a record 10 million fans in social media, is essentially using Twitter as a suggestion box," he said. "The way you want to think about it is as a pond. You throw stuff out there -- ads, for instance -- and what you are looking for is the ripple effect. It's the measurement of that where you see the real value of social media. Listening is an important analytic and informs [Starbucks'] marketing."

Another example, he said, is Harrah's, which changed its campaign focus when it discovered that Twitter volume was saying its ads were not resonating. "They switched to a focus on the comfort of their rooms, changing the campaign in real-time, and saw a double-digit increase in online booking."

Ramsey said social media efforts should also focus on core fans and the fact that they have a far greater ability than the brand itself to create more fans. "They have an inordinate amount of influence," he said. "You want to view them as owners of the brand and cultivate them carefully. If you do that, they will grow their ranks."

The reason is that people like to be consistent, he said. They like to do what they say and vice versa: just as a person who uses a brand is more likely to "friend" it in social media, a person who becomes a fan of a brand or product on social media (perhaps by recommendation) is more likely to then become a customer.

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