It is always useful to single out a channel when we are learning the ropes but the proliferation of social within media is such that it’s no longer necessary to single it out.
The above statement, as with a lot of advertising and media, is still wholly dependent on the brand but by and large most brands will now find that their communications mix needs to be inherently social. It is now a given, not an exception. People expect to be able to share, retweet and Like content and businesses are really starting to carve out where it adds ROI and how to measure the value for their organisation.
Rewind to almost two and a half years ago, when I started writing this column on a weekly basis, and it was a totally different picture. New media age and I have been writing about social media for a lot longer than this, but as I pen the final McEleny on Social it is hard not to notice how even in just two and a half years the market has moved on significantly.
The first formal column I wrote was a call to action for Facebook, urging it to clean up and simplify its privacy options for users or risk an exodus (nma.co.uk, 18 May 2010). The idea of Facebook and an exodus seems a bit OTT on reflection but Facebook has come on significantly in terms of privacy and user trust since then.
A week after that and the future of Bebo was on the rocks, suddenly posing the question for brands: What happens to this valuable community I have cultivated if the social network closes? (nma.co.uk, 25 May 2010). Customer data gleaned from social media is still a major concern for brands. Currently the only brands making sense of how to manage this either have a decent budget to invest into in-house data analysts and technology, or they operate in sectors such as retail, where the benefit of having a single customer view across all channels is more immediately felt.
Moving on a little it was almost two years exactly that the UK ad market started to take a keener interest in Twitter as it came to the UK to speak to brands. At the time it had so far to go, particularly in terms of refining its localised ad products (nma.co.uk, 28 September 2010). Fast forward to today and analysts are already betting on the microblogging site’s revenue from mobile ads to dwarf that of Facebook’s this year. A winning mix of having an ad product that translates well across desktop and mobile as well as attracting brilliant staff to communicate this to brands has served the company well. Where Twitter has succeeded and almost every other social network has, at some stage, failed is that it seems to know exactly what it is and what it wants to be, it’s a network of interests.
One argument that still rages on now is the issue of the management of social media. Controversially I decided to state very early on that agencies should not be in charge of the community management side of social media. Instead I felt that agencies were best utilised for the strategic or technology side of things (nma.co.uk 19 October 2010). I still believe that where possible there should be internal resources for community or customer service because the closer the customer can be to the brand, the better. But the increasing complexities of social media and the fact that almost every part of media is now social means that perhaps the argument now is to consider it as just media.
In theory, now the scope of a head of social media would be very similar to a head of digital. With recent announcements such as Facebook’s RTB proposition FBX, which now allows brands to carry out retargeting via partner suppliers and agencies, a social media specialist has to understand programmatic buying and targeting, as well as content, customer service, SEO, etc, etc.
Of course, we’ll still say ‘social media’ for ages yet, but it’s bigger than that now. What social media has done, most importantly, is help brands and agencies remember that they need to be customer-centric.