Marketers Struggle With Social Media


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.”

3 comments about "Marketers Struggle With Social Media".
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  1. Kirk Cheyfitz from Kirk Cheyfitz Consulting, December 13, 2011 at 12:54 p.m.

    We do a lot of very successful, tightly integrated social marketing for a number of large clients. Based on that experience, I believe the root cause of the problems reported here is the view of "social" as a separate channel or even as a channel that a brand can "choose" to participate in. Everything is migrating to digital, as we all know. Social is the heart of digital. It is not separable from other channels. Equally important, if a brand does or says anything interesting—good or bad—the audience will spread that news across all sorts of social platforms. The audience is integrated whether or not the brand is. So any story worth hearing or telling will be part of the social ecosystem whether the brand knows it or not. Instead of thinking social "channels" as separate from other, presumably non-social channels, we ask our clients to think in terms of paid, owned and earned media and the jobs that are best accomplished by each. It is far more useful mindset.

  2. Jeff Emmerson from Freelance, December 15, 2011 at 8:14 a.m.

    Well said, Kirk! I love your perspective, a "big-picture" mindset that's so important in this industry.

  3. Julie Walker from Purple Spinnaker, December 16, 2011 at 11:31 a.m.

    Great article. Many brands think that social media is about connecting them to their customers, however the strongest communities are about facilitating the connection with other community members who have a common interest, topic or issue they want to discuss, share, learn about or contribute their view about.

    If you look at the active and successful communities online these are built around a common interest/purpose and if more brands looked at how the successful communities function and understand that at their core is a connection with more than a brands message at its core.

    Today social is another tick list item on a multi channel communication plan, Facebook, tick, Twitter, Tick, Youtube, tick, google + tick, pintrest tick.......etc

    What is not happening is observation and asking the question - how does this work, are these channels where we can offer value by creating a platform of owned and public social networks, where our stakeholder groups can connect in a way that has meaning to them?

    It is not just about customers, all stakeholder groups involved in a company have a stake in tis future, be that a customer, employee, investor, supplier, partner, and each of these groups are finding places online where they can have a conversation about your company or brand with others with a similar interest.

    Social is not a marketing channel, social is a set of enabling platforms and technologies, some of which are public platforms, facebook, twitter etc, public forums and communities which are interest driven etc and others which are branded communities like sephora, mystarbucksidea, dells ideastorm or Microsoft’s vast number of technical forums and blogs.

    The companies who are using social well are integrating them into a large company picture and not focusing on tactical competitions and facebook pages, their initiatives are part of a longer term strategic play - they recognise this should be business as usual and not a project by project initiative.

    Senior executives, not just in marketing and PR, but across the company, need to understand how social works, look at where companies are deriving benefit, at their business and identify a couple of small strategic initiatives, eg a new product development and use social tools to support internal and external team communication, engage a small group of customers to get feedback/opinions and create a multi stakeholder community/forum/idea centre to bring together a multi-discipline/multi-view team and when the project is complete look at what works, what has not and then look at what can be integrated into the business going forward.

    Social is not something to be afraid of, it is something to learn about and look to apply within your organisation to help it grow, evolve, innovate, market, sell....

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