By Peter Friedman
Today, social media has matured far beyond being a niche communication channel. It’s now a pervasive part of society, rapidly becoming the primary experience to share their lives with other people, and increasingly, with brands. The trend will only grow as more Millennials enter the work force and baby boomers retire. The former assume social media as their primary communications and relationship channel.
Boomers, meanwhile, have become personal-computer savvy in work and at home over the past 25 years; more recently, they have become mobile phone and tablet savvy. They are increasingly adopting social media as they have more time available and more grandchildren to communicate with. Seniors have always represented an upswing in the social media usage curve for these reasons, but boomers are bringing massive new numbers to the demographic, and with that, a big jump in senior social media usage overall.
Consumer and B2B advertising is following the customer, seeking to connect with them where not just their eyeballs are but their hearts and minds as well. Thanks to social media, brands are better positioned than ever before to connect with customers and find opportunities beyond their products themselves to satisfy primal human needs. These include self-expression, community, and recognition.
Marketing budgets are reflecting this shift. Social media was first an experiment, then an additional channel, then a very important channel, and finally the mainline area of marketing. Now it will grow even more influential to become the context and the platform for most marketing. What that means is brand development will begin with building relationships and presence in social media, and the rest of the marketing mix will support and follow from that base.
What are the tactical implications of social media’s coming predominance in marketing?
- -Budgets are growing, a change which only heightens the importance of spending those dollars smartly.
- -Dedicated social teams that work collaboratively with other parts of marketing mix and, increasingly, other parts of the company, are becoming the norm.
- -Measurement is shifting from vanity metrics such as fan counts and superficial engagement metrics such as comment likes to data that shows true customer involvement. Examples might include customers taking key roles in brand leadership, volunteering stories that demonstrate an emotional commitment to the brand, and promoting the brand actively in their own social networks. The high bar of social media is becoming activity demonstrating that customers have integrated the brand into their daily lives, both practically and emotionally.
- -Likewise, social media insight will no longer by measured through metrics about buzz but by conversation analysis that provides a nuanced picture of what people really think and feel, in real-time.
Consider how well your company is prepared for this new era. If the answer is “not very,” it’s time to build the bridge. Many successful social programs start with just one dedicated employee. Find that person, and get started.
Peter Friedman is the CEO and Chairman of LiveWorld, and the author of the forthcoming book The CMO’s Social Media Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide For Leading Marketing Teams in the Social Media World, from which this article was excerpted. @PeterFriedman