Marketers are struggling to fully integrate social into their overarching marketing strategies, according to a new report from the Chief Marketing Officer Council.
Marketers are investing in social media. People are logging in and "liking" their favorite brands. But this is where the synergies begin to weaken, according to the CMO Council in "The Variance in the Social Brand Experience."
Social consumers indicate they are looking for exclusive experiences, savings, and perks from the brands they like. But marketers still believe that content and connection to peers are the primary drivers to likes and follows.
The CMO Council study provides feedback from more than 1,300 consumers and 132 senior marketing executives. Lithium, a provider of social customer solutions, has also offered insights into how brands like Sephora have created a competitive advantage through targeted social engagements and strategies.
Brands that gain social business advantage in 2012 will be those that feed unmet appetites for deeper engagement with each other and the brand. People are seeking more rewards with special offers, greater privilege, rank, and reputation. They want better experiences with games, contests, and other online engagement apps.
“There's no question that social media is one of the most highly influential marketing engagement channels we’ve seen,” according to the report. “The constantly emerging nature of digital media has been pushing the engagement envelope for some time, but what’s new and different about social media is that it’s now a two-way street.”
But in some cases, brands are missing the boat. They see the benefits of reaching out to people through social channels, but they are not yet fully invested, according to the report. While 52% of marketers reported they believe their brands have enjoyed greater influence thanks to their presence in social networks like Facebook, only 17% said social media is fully meshed, aligned and integrated into the overall marketing mix.
People say they engage with brands through channels like Facebook and other social networks largely to learn about new products (55%), enter unique promotions or contests, or to play games (65%) offered specifically -- and often exclusively -- through these channels. Most use social specifically to connect with other fans (25%) or to share positive experiences (32%).
Importantly, few consumers turn to social to bad-mouth brands or complain about negative experiences. Instead, they use open social communities to share more positive engagements and experiences.
One case in point is Sephora’s “Beauty Talk” community on its Web site. “It was flooded with clients dying to talk about beauty with each other,” said Bridget Dolan, vice president of interactive media at Sephora.“It was exactly what we wanted. What we found was that clients were not only trying to talk with us -- they were trying to talk with each other. And they were actually engaging in ways we had no idea they would.”
Marketers will do well to consider a new mindset for social in 2012, according to the report. Great support isn’t just something that social customers expect, it can also build brand loyalty; 33% of consumers say that great online customer support keeps them loyal. Social support is the perfect way to enable people to help each other with the immediacy they demand. It can also significantly offset support costs.
The top expectation that comes with a “like” is to be eligible for exclusive offers (67%), followed by the opportunity to interact with other customers who share a consumer’s own experiences (60%). Games and contests are also a big draw, with 65% of people wanting to find them when making online brand connections, and 57% expecting them from brands on Facebook.
For the most part, existing social media strategies are in place to support communications, but are not fully integrated into overarching marketing strategies. According to the marketers surveyed, 20% admit that social media strategies are really just a loosely connected channel, and 23% admit that while they have some strategies brewing, there has been a general failure to launch.
But without a doubt, social media is skyrocketing in importance as an overwhelming majority (80%) has moved the channel up their marketing priority list. This is demonstrated -- as the average social media following of the brands surveyed include 224,472 Facebook fans, 2,600 LinkedIn connections, 11,780 Twitter followers, and a growing representation on emerging channels like Google+. For the most part, these channels are being managed by an average of only three dedicated social media resources within the marketing team.
The majority of marketers (52%) believe their brands have a growing level of influence through social media channels, but many (67%) are concerned that they don’t have the resources or time required to properly manage their social media investments. Marketers are also increasingly concerned that they can’t measure or quantify the return or impact of social media on the brand. As one marketing respondent summarized: “We are worried about what we don’t know about social media and what we are missing.”