myclicks (http://www.myclicks.org.uk), a London based digital marketing agency, recently hosted a round-table at the Electric House Members Club in Notting Hill, entitled ‘Social Media Marketing – Fad or Effective’?
The outcome of the discussions was largely positive, but focused on the requirement of stronger justification and accountability for marketing heads based on improved social media metrics.

Maturing Channel

2010 saw many companies spending experimental and development budgets on social media advertising. The result of this has been an accumulation of experience and statistics for analysis when shaping budgets for 2011.
The usual pattern of new advertising channels is that their effectiveness to the marketer in terms of ROI increases as consumers become habituated to the new medium and trust is gained. They also begin to use the channel actively to seek information on products and services they have interest in.
This is the phase which social media marketing is currently entering. Potential consumers using Facebook, as one prominent example, are increasingly using the search bar to locate the Facebook page of a product or brand, as well as being passively targeted by those brands using Facebook. However, allocation of greater resources means a sharper focus on return, which is the issue which faces marketers for the coming year.
The majority of the round-table’s participants, around 75%, were satisfied with their use of social media tools, including social networks, online video, blogs and podcasts. Around 30% stated that social media would be a key element in their communication strategy when preparing 2011 budgets, with the remainder preparing to continuing to ramp-up their presence using these channels to a greater or lesser extent.
A major thread was the difficulty of presenting hard metrics to justify significant budget outlay based on ROI through monetization of social media marketing. Enhancement of reputation, relationship with key audiences and customer awareness were rated as the primary benefits. To improve trackability marketers will have to increasingly incorporate calls-to-action and promotions into social media marketing strategies.

SEO Connection

Another justification of strong presence via social media channels is their increasing influence on search engine ranking. Although it is known that Google in particular have incorporated this factor into their ratings processes it is not entirely clear on what variables a strong result rests upon. Little information has been forthcoming from Google on the topic. However, as it is predicted that it will become an increasingly influential factor in SEO, companies heavily reliant on search engine presence are making sure they are not burnt and positioning themselves strongly as of now.

Dovetailing with mobile marketing

The other major trend expected for 2011 is the spike in mobile specific online marketing as telephones incorporating browsers become the norm, and tablets increase market presence. As social media channels hold a significant share of the amount of time spent online via mobile devices (and perhaps is the primary use amongst younger age groups), the two trends will dovetail.
Many companies have set aside significant budget resources for the development of mobile-specific online marketing, which will likely have a knock-on effect on social media marketing as online mobile habits are studied.
Maybe not ‘going viral’ just yet, but here to stay
The overwhelming conclusion of the round-table was that social media marketing has many positives, with the negatives predominantly related to the as-of-yet still underdeveloped metrics available. However, it is a marketing channel which will now certainly continue to gain usage and significance. As it does so companies will both become more experienced in establishing metrics and social media platforms will develop their own more sophisticated analytics to increase their attractiveness as advertising channels.

Published on: 4:07PM on 24th January 2011