Commentary

Taking Stock Of All Things Social

No. 1 among the buzzwords in the social media marketing space that should be throttled and buried, according to “Social Media Marketing Trends 2016” report? Social media marketing.

In other words, given the title of the paper and how many times those words are used within, social media marketing is dead; long live social media marketing!

But the point is well taken. The term “is so ubiquitous and overarching at this point that maybe we could finally stop talking about it as a separate thing,” write the authors of the report compiled by Kurio, a social media agency based in Helsinki, Finland.

Saying the phrase has “frivolous connotations,” author and strategist David Meerman Scott points out that “social media are just the tools. What’s really changed is that for the first time in human history, we now have real-time media to connect sellers with buyers instantly.”

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Even as Edelman global strategy director David Armano  agrees that “it’s all just marketing now,” he also makes the case that the biggest challenge brands face is integrating everything into one cohesive discipline -- not only strategically and creatively, but also in how it’s measured.

Scott and Armano are among 10 experts whose thoughts were solicited for the report, which was published in advance of the Social Media Creative Academy at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this week.

William J. Ward, who teaches digital and social media at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, is dean of the five-day program. It drew eight participants from seven countries in what Ward describes as a “very hands-on” experience.

The five major trends gleaned by Kurio from the practitioners’ and strategists’ responses are:

  • Strategic integration of social.
  • Omnichannel customer-centricity.
  • Shift from text to visual.
  • Real time growing in importance.
  • Development of business-based KPIs.

To nobody’s surprise, given their growth, the report finds that the top social channels for 2016 were Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. But, “keep in mind that channel choices always depend on the target groups, context and content. No one-size-fits-all approaches to this,” according to the report.

In that spirit, “I think we can learn a lot from newer niche platforms like Nom for foodies or Tandem for fitness,” says Candace Kuss, the director of social media for H+K Strategies.

As far as real-time interaction goes, Shapchat and Facebook Live are leading the way. But don’t count out Twitter just yet, says Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, with more Millennials turning to it for “social causes and their ‘news.’”

You'd best be quick about whatever you do, however. “I’ve seen so many great possibilities die because the train left the station yesterday or two hours ago,” says Martin Mohr, group creative director of Hjaltelin Stahl.

Live streaming experiences -- including variations such as virtual reality and augmented reality -- are on the rise, including “unscripted videos from your fans and advocates,” points out Sandy Carter, GM, startups and ecosystems at IBM.

As far as that mystical, if not mythical, creature known as the “viral video” goes, just stop chasing it. “Content creation without a sound distribution plan is a waste of budget and effort,” according to Kerry Gaffney, MOFILM’s director of community & communication.

And that brand newsroom you’re planning? Forget it, too. “They don’t build a brand and they don’t create news,” says Thomas Crampton, global managing director for Social@Ogilvy. Indeed, “just trying to jump on a trend or a hashtag is a quick way to irrelevance,” claims Juuso Myllyrinne, VP of digital at TBWA.

Midweek, I asked Ward, aka @DR4WARD, for the biggest takeaway from the program itself. “Being on social is not being social,” he replied. “Tools, tech., data & youth are not magic. It's how they can help us be more human, not less.”

So, as Mohr advises, “Have some more fun. Loosen up. Show there’s a human behind the keyboard. Burn the manual...”

And be creative!

“I see more and more brands now looking to be social first when it comes to their big creative thinking,” says Danny Whatmough, head of social at Weber Shandwick. “As advertising moves away from TV I think (and hope) we’ll see more creative time being invested in ideas that are social by design.”

If not by nomenclature.

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