According to the experts, social media in 2017 will be all about live video, chatbots, and perhaps even virtual reality.

While this is the case for some brands, many social media marketers have different priorities for the new year.

Econsultancy recently held roundtable discussions with dozens of brand managers in Singapore to discuss the future of social media marketing including issues they face, trends, and best practices.

Although many were interested in new technologies and platforms, especially chatbots, brand marketers were mostly concerned about what they needed to do to adapt to the changing media landscape and how to add value to the business.

Their main interests are summarised below in a list of things which participants ‘like’ about social media – and things which they ‘dislike’.

Likes

1) Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Nearly all attendees on the day had moved away from social media ‘vanity metrics‘ and had adopted social media KPIs. Some of the KPIs were just to gauge individual performance, but others they reported upwards to the business.

Social media KPIs which marketers use include:

  • Increase in followers.
  • Social media credited conversions.
  • Social content quality score.
  • Clicks from social media, along with time on site.

KPIs are important, marketers said, because they give the team direction and helps them ‘sell’ social media to the business.

While everyone agreed that there wasn’t a single set of KPIs which would suit every organisation, participants felt that marketers should try to have a mix of qualitative and quantitative metrics.

For example, marketers may have a goal of a certain number of posts per week, but ensure that the number of clicks per post stays constant. Otherwise, one attendee noted, the increase in the quantity of social media posts will result in a decrease in their quality.

2) Messaging apps

Delegates reported that they are spending less effort on investigating new social platforms and more time researching messaging apps.

The research is necessary, according to participants, because each country in the region has its preferred messaging app, and each app has its own interface for brand and fan management.

Regardless of which app they were using, marketers said that messaging apps are a great way to:

  • deliver information about exclusive events,
  • answer pre-purchase questions, and
  • provide ongoing customer service.  

Because of how important messaging is to consumers now, some participants felt that they will be investing more time in messaging apps in 2017. Others said that they were holding off due to the lack of tools to help them manage the channels (see below in ‘dislikes’).

3) Consumer / customer data

Everyone agreed that relevancy is the key to success of social media marketing, but many participants felt that it was difficult to know what content will be engaging for their audience. In order to help them improve their posts, participants indicated that they are using data to understand their social media audiences better. 

Some are using consumer data from social media platforms and create content based on their audiences’ interests and demographics. Others were also using their internal customer data to get a clearer picture of their audience.  

They felt that combining first-party and third-party data gave marketers the ‘best bang for their buck’.

For those brands that pay to promote their content, audiences created from first and third-party data were very useful for targeting content as well, one attendee noted.

4) Being prepared for crises

Most participants on the day had been involved in a social media crisis of some sort and the consensus was that the best way to manage a crisis was to be prepared.  

Ways that marketers could prepare for a social media crisis include:

  • Implementing agile marketing methods
  • Having a predetermined ‘situation room’ prepared
  • Writing reactive content ahead of time
  • Running drills so that everyone understood their role 

While there was no guarantee that any of these would prepare them for every crisis, participants felt that not preparing at all was a recipe for disaster.

5) Senior management buy-in

Participants felt that they spent most of their time on strategy and execution, but a social media marketer’s biggest worry is getting senior-level buy-in.

As one attendee said, “social media marketers need to continuously engage and educate senior management on what social media can and cannot achieve for the company.”

Speaking regularly with senior management about the value of social is a key part of a social media marketer’s job, participants concluded, and engagement for brand building must be emphasized as a benefit.  

Otherwise, one pointed out, management will see social media simply as another sales channel, and it often does not live up to the hype.

Dislikes

1) Hashtags

At one time, hashtags were regarded as a way for brands to link content across various posts, including user-generated content (UGC). This meant that nearly every tweet and tagline had to have at least one hashtag on it.

Marketers are now less enthusiastic about them. Some participants said that they are still useful for events or to find out what is trending now. Others felt that because the impact of hashtags is difficult to measure, there is little reason to use them at all.

2) Channels in decline

Brand presence on a social media channel requires significant effort even if it is not popular, according to attendees. So, following the nearly complete abandonment of Google+ by brands, many marketers are asking themselves ‘which one is next’?

While there was no one channel which all participants agree was in terminal decline, some delegates said that they are finding it difficult to monetize their audiences on Twitter and Pinterest. For that reason, they were investing less time and effort on them.

Another pointed out that working on a channel in decline is demoralising for marketers and so tough decisions will be made in 2017 regarding which channels will be part of their social media efforts.

3) Facebook algorithm changes

One social network which is clearly not in decline is Facebook. Everyone agreed that Facebook was still one of the best places to engage with audiences across nearly every market (notable exception being China).

What marketers did not like, though, is how difficult it is to keep up with the changes in the Facebook algorithm. Facebook has been slowly reducing the reach of organic posts from brands since 2012, but marketers noticed a rapid drop in the first half of 2016.

As one marketer put it, ‘no one knows what Facebook is about any more. Is it brand-friendly? Or are they trying to get rid of us?’

These changes have made it difficult to execute long-term strategies on the platform and everyone felt that they were always playing catch-up.

4) Lack of publisher support

As mentioned previously, brand marketers struggle to manage content, campaigns, and audiences across multiple social media platforms – and they felt that the networks were not making life any easier for them.

While there are several software solutions available for managing social networks, few social media tools work well across all major platforms and, of these, none work for the China networks yet. Thus, marketers need multiple tools to stitch together their content calendar and measurement data. 

One participant pointed out that the lack of publisher support on existing channels will make it more difficult for new channels (e.g. Snapchat) to get investment from brands.

Many felt that tools to solve this problem are in development, but as platforms change so will the requirements. Few expected a ‘magic bullet’ solution for this issue any time soon.

5) Little for business-to-business (B2B) marketers on social media

While business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers are seeing significant returns from their social media campaigns, B2B marketers indicated that they were still struggling to get return on investment (ROI) from their social media efforts.

One reason for this, as a B2B marketer explained, is that few social networks capture any meaningful data about their members’ workplace or occupation.  The only one which does, LinkedIn, has been very slow to make user data available and only offered programmatic display in mid-2016.

Because of this, many B2B marketers are still avoiding social media and relying on email as well as traditional marketing tactics such as events for lead generation and sales.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day and the moderator for the Social Media Measurement & Optimisation table, Kanchi Dheer, Social Marketing Manager in Asia at Spotify.

We hope to see you all at future Singapore Econsultancy events!