The other day, Elizabeth Shaw and I were talking social marketing with some agency folks who mentioned that they no longer create purely organic content and campaigns on behalf of clients.  Everything has to have paid support.  This approach makes sense on the surface – after all, engagement with organic content from brands is close to nil at this point.  No wonder that 80% of marketers, according to our Digital Channel Survey, have implemented or are planning social advertising programs.

Sure, there are exceptions – Wendy’s recent Twitter snark has helped differentiate its brand voice in social while garnering a ton of exposure (not always good).  And we’ve seen a heavy increase in client inquiries about employee advocacy – content shared by employees via social can significantly outperform content coming directly from brands.  Indeed, employees are the second most credible source of information about a brand, after friends and family, according to a study by Ketchum.

But the evolution of  social networks into merely another advertising channel (albeit an effective one) can be disheartening for those of us who “grew up” with the promise and initial reality of social as an authentic, unfiltered, conversational channel for marketing.  Throw in Facebook’s current obsession with bots – (“is there anything less social than communicating with a bot?” another Gartner analyst lamented recently) and one can see where this is going, at least from a marketing perspective.

From a consumer perspective, though, social is still as social as ever, even as network preferences change.  My ten year old, for example, spends most of her social media time on YouTube, interacting with fellow gamers and uploading videos, and on musical.ly, chatting with classmates and co-creating content with them.

Indeed, at its core, social media is still a place where humans create and share content with the world, discover new people with whom to converse, and help each other out with everything from lifestyle advice to product recommendations.  Successful brands will continue to follow that model – creating content that helps first, and only sells when the context is right and trust has been established.  And there’s no reason that social advertising can’t follow the same approach – by targeting current customers with helpful content during the Own phase of the customer journey, for example, and working in tandem with other channels, like email and search.

In this week’s analyst picks and headlines– from the aforementioned Elizabeth Shaw, we look at ways the marketers are leveraging social to support the full multi-channel symphony.  Clients who haven’t yet tapped into Elizabeth’s extensive experience in marketing innovation, coupled with her tack sharp approach to social media, should take advantage of the opportunity as soon as they can.

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