Mike Lazerow, CMO, Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
Much has been made of the power of social media to transform businesses and the way they interact with their customers. But, as Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg commented this week at Advertising Week, social media – and the ways in which marketers use it – is still very much in its ‘infancy’. The social revolution has barely begun.
Let’s consider the fact that a still relatively small number of senior business people is made up of ‘digital natives’, those who were born after 1980 into an online world. The next generation of executives are the children who, according to the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, will have spent around 20,000 hours in contact with digital technologies by the time they reach adulthood. For these people, everything – including business – will be social by necessity, making the social business an inevitability.
But we all know that this transition is experiencing some growing pains. The technology is evolving at such a rapid pace, it’s impossible for even the most dedicated specialists to stay on top of it all.
To compound the problem all of the tools operate in silos, with separate password logins and wildly varied user interfaces. Right now what we’re seeing is an industry that’s clogged with a lot of specialised technologies for specific uses, and brands are going to this company to do X, and this company to do Y. And essentially what they’re doing is fragmenting their data, which is causing both short- and long-term problems. And as long as social media remains disjointed and disconnected from the rest of the business, it can’t make the impact it should.
Ford is one example of a brand that’s bringing social thinking and technology into all its operations – and reaping the rewards. Speaking at this year’s Dreamforce, Scott Monty, global digital & multimedia communications manager, said: “Ford doesn’t have a standalone social media strategy — we have a business strategy supported by social media. We need to scale social media across our employees, dealers and customers, and know exactly how it is driving our business.” (Pun intended? I’m not sure.)
The social business is maturing – here’s what the next stage of its journey towards adulthood looks like.
- Integration, integration, integration: “Companies are struggling to scale to keep up with all the conversations on social networks,” according to Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst with Altimeter Group. He argues, “Tools that analyse, plan, deliver and measure media such as ads, content and conversations help marketers to reach the intended audiences and result in higher resonation.” For Monty, Ford’s strategy relies on a “unified view of social, to make analysis that comes out of it available to product development, advertising, or product marketing,” cementing the importance of integration for successful social brand strategies.
- Digital marketers take charge: Gartner predicts that CMOs will spend more money on technology than CIOs by 2017. We think that’s a conservative estimate. As companies adopt a social ‘switchboard’ model, where comprehensive listening tools hook into the rest of the business, marketers’ influence over chief finance, operations and information officers will increase tenfold.
- Value measurement comes of age: Asking what value social engagement holds is a bit like asking, ‘Why should I talk to my customers?’ That’s a question that was answered long ago, and it’s just the method of communication that’s changed. But now we’re starting to integrate listening and monitoring with all other aspects of digital marketing, we’re so much closer to determining the true value of online interactions with customers, at a more granular level than ever before. Added to this, companies like Facebook are pioneering the idea that we need to re-evaluate the way we measure effectiveness, forever altering the way businesses view customer relationship management.
Marketing is undergoing its biggest shift in decades, as brands move from traditional strategies to connecting with customers and fans globally through social media. The time is now for brands to start taking advantage of social’s coming of age, turning insight into action and connections into customers for life.