Social may have established itself as a brand-building requirement, but -- as some marketers have learned the hard way -- it can’t replace other channels yet.
“Brand-building strategy and social strategy are inextricably intertwined,” according to Forrester analyst Tracy Stokes. Yet, “social efforts do not represent a stand-alone solution and need the scale and consistency of paid and owned media.”
According to Forrester, a Facebook page does not define “social engagement.” Rather, it is a way to communicate directly with consumers on their terms, whether that’ involves reading a blog, sharing a YouTube video, or posting to a social networking site.
As Stokes lays out in a new report, social can help brands build consumer trust, differentiate themselves through emotional connections with consumers, and exploit the loyalty of dedicated fans.
Yet communicating through social networks is not scalable, Stokes finds. “Marketers and social marketing agencies told us that social media cannot reach critical mass in the same way that paid broadcast media can, and it would defeat the uniqueness of the channel.”
Indeed, Facebook recently warned advertisers that just 16% of fans see organic content posted by brands.
“JetBlue, a leading proponent of social media, understands this,” Stokes notes. “When it comes to a big launch like a new service to Dallas, the airline still turns to TV broadcast for broad impact and awareness.”
What’s more, messaging through social media is too fragmented, Forrester finds. Social media’s many voices fragment a brand’s message like an old-fashioned game of telephone, so paid and owned media are still essential to define a brand message.
Meanwhile, Forrester found that that too many marketers say that they are working on their social strategy, but it is disconnected from their overall branding efforts, apart from logos and collateral.
“Forrester believes that to be successful, 21st century brands must point their brand compass in the direction that helps them build a brand that is trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential,” said Stokes.
While its specific applicability is still debatable, marketers appear to be sold on social. As a recent Forrester survey found, one out of five chief marketing officers said they are personally accountable for social efforts. In fact, among digital channels, they view social media as second only to the Web in affecting branding, and second only to search in affecting brand-building efforts.
Overall, of the marketing leaders that Forrester surveyed, 92% believe that social media has fundamentally changed how consumers engage with brands, while three out of four marketing leaders surveyed said they were changing their marketing strategy as a result of social media.
That said, while two-thirds of marketers claimed to have a clearly defined social strategy, only half viewed their social efforts as strategically integrated into their 2012 brand-building plans.