State of the Blogosphere 2011: Part 2 - Page 3
BRANDS IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: WHAT DO THE MARKETERS SAY?
We heard from marketers who are just getting started in social media, and veterans who are using every available tool. We also received detailed examples and case studies, which we’ll be profiling in upcoming articles. We also asked them about the most significant developments in social media in 2011 and their predictions for the coming year.
Overall, advice was centered along these main themes:
- Encourage and enable sharing across platforms.
- Bloggers are trusted peers. Work with them to create or curate unfiltered, credible content and reviews, in order to create a conversation around your brand. Focus on building long-term relationships.
- Use blogger outreach organically and encourage these social influencers to be honest and open about their opinions so that they don't feel forced to give a "good" review, but rather, their "own" review.
- Use social media not only to distribute content but to build active communities and interact with and respond to your audiences.
- Layer on social media measurement tools to find where users fall into your conversion funnels.
- Leverage paid media on social channels.
Here are some of the responses that best summarized what we learned:
“Social Media is a channel that we continue to integrate into all aspects of a marketing campaign. We've seen tremendous results in various campaigns with social media channels that were well integrated from the beginning of a campaign. Blogger outreach is an effort that transcends marketing and enters the world of PR. Our social media efforts collaborate extensively to seek out major blog influencers and allow them an opportunity to test, review, and use our products from an unbiased standpoint.”
“We see blogger outreach as the opportunity to leverage influencers and connect with a new audience. We recognize that there are conversations happening in the blogosphere that are applicable to the brands we represent and we believe it's valuable for our brands to join the discussion.”
“I would start off by saying that I believe in taking a different approach to social [media]. The word 'incorporate' makes me think that social is an afterthought for a lot of agencies and clients. Social is sprinkled-in to enhance a campaign or social activations are used to promote certain aspects of a campaign. I believe that social should be the backbone to campaigns. It all starts with listening to what your customers want. And they have never been as boisterous as they are on social platforms and blogs. Utilizing social listening tools is essential to finding out what drives a brand's conversations.”
“We consider how social media would fit into any campaign, but it's all based on what we're trying to achieve. If communicating with our target makes sense via social platforms, then we dive in and figure out how best and where to reach them. We have worked with several brands where it made sense given the target, [such as certain types of] women (either health-conscious women for a January promotion, or moms dealing with changes for the back-to-school routine) – to reach out to them in places where they were already seeking this type of information. We found they were visiting blogs to get advice and tips from peers and experts, so we wanted our products to be included in those conversations.”
“We usually have the option to share an article and/or an entire custom unit on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Additionally, we are running a blogging placement that allows bloggers to engage, then blog about it amongst their peers.”
“Social media is the glue to the mass messages. We attempt to integrate all of our campaigns so the paid, owned and earned are all working together. We do this for all of our clients.”
We asked marketers: What are your top three DOs for social media? Here is just a sampling of the advice we received:
- Be a personality, not just a brand.
- Be responsive and quick.
- Recognize and reward your fans.
- Push for organic conversation.
- Pull content streams into ad units.
- Provide value to your audience.
- Do provide relevant content that isn't always brand-specific.
- Do acknowledge all feedback regardless of the sentiment (negative or positive).
- Do remember that social platforms (and therefore the messaging you release on each) are different and shouldn't be treated as one "social media" tactic.
- Do allow your consumers to join in the conversation.
- Do leverage paid media to amplify owned social programs.
- Do leverage custom messages that are tailored to the audience you are targeting.
- Always tell the truth – be transparent. Consumers will figure you out or call you out immediately if you don't.
- Be on top of it. There's no time to sit back, come up with a strategy to respond, then issue some statement, when the conversation is happening now, and if you're not involved, it's already slipping out of your control.
- Be human. It shouldn't sound like a corporate drone is sitting at a computer cranking out rote statements. That completely defeats the purpose of communicating with your consumers. Make it real. Put a human face, emotion to your communication. And consumers will respond to that.
- Use it. You can't make decisions if you don't know what social media is and how it works.
- Do trust your employees to represent your brand in social media.
- Be thankful for negative feedback. It shows you what you need to change.
We also asked: “What are your top three DON’Ts for social media?” The majority of the responses came in along these lines:
- Don’t use social media as a direct marketing channel.
- Don’t pay for likes.
- Don't believe that social media is free. Time is money. Social media takes time and strategy.
- Don't open up a two-way conversation if you aren't fully aware of the likely conversation flow.
- Once you've opened up a dialog, be ready to turn negatives into positives, but DON’T censor a participant who has a negative opinion.
- Don’t expect that social media = mass exposure with no investment.
- Don't assume all social media is equal; users have as many ways of consuming social media as any other kind of media.
- Don't put up posts if you can't manage responding to pressing questions.
- Don't expect all social activity to be positive in sentiment.
- Don't lose track of your goals/measurements.
- Don't try to reach the entire blogosphere. You want to hit key influencers and secure virality within specific communities first – ensure privacy and safety.
- Don't let accounts be idle. Fresh content is necessary to provide relevancy to users interested in your brand. Do not create something if it's not going to be updated and monitored.
- Don't only pay attention to so-called influencers. People matter, and someone with five followers may be the loudest, most respected voice at his or her PTA meeting or church.
- Don't take a checklist approach to social media, doing Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. because you think everyone's doing it.
- Don't throw your existing marketing into social channels and call it social marketing.
- Don't sell out for quantity of followers/fans – gain quality people who want to engage.
- Don't pelt followers/fans with information – be selective about what is shared/sent.
- Don't stop communicating – keep messaging/contact consistent throughout the year, don't go dark.
We asked: In the past year, what was the biggest change or the most significant development you saw in social media?
The most popular answers centered around a few major trends: brand strategy, blogging, the evolution of specific social media channels, advancements in mobile devices, developments in analytics, and the problem of information overload.
"The biggest change is seeing social media being integrated into all aspects of marketing. Advertising (TV, Print, OOH), Digital (Microsites, Banners), Media buy (Facebook ads, Youtube video ads, etc.) all funneling and integrating with consumer feedback/relationship building."
"Most brands seem to be less scared of the social media landscape than they previously were. Seeing other big brands get burned and survive has given them more confidence to allow users to provide comments and feedback in a public forum without the need to delete negative feedback (and instead respond to it)."
"The importance of social [media] to brands has shifted. Last year I worked on a major sponsorship for a large consumer tech company. Social activations were added to drive users to a digital presence after planning was done. This year planning began with social and ideas that could live on social networks. Clients are definitely starting to shift their ways of thinking. I love it."
"The biggest change for us is that we now spend far less time selling brands on the point of social media. We spend far more time figuring out how to best use it to achieve brands' unique objectives."
"Rather than us having to persuade clients to dip their toe in the water, we had clients getting more aggressive about bringing up something they had heard about and asking if [they] should be there."
"Now it's about realizing that having an actual tactical strategy within the 'social' space is important – you can't be all things in all networks and you have to choose and activate wisely and with purpose."
"I would have to say blogging and how it is being used has been the biggest development in social media. Individuals trust bloggers, especially those who are seen as influential. Blogging can either have a positive or negative effect on a campaign, brand or product. Individuals will make decisions based on comments made by their peers or by someone they feel confident in."
"A trend towards more integrated advertising content, including sponsored posts. The subject material needs to suit the blog and be something the author would write about anyway. When the subject matter sounds forced or impersonal, it can actually turn an audience away from that blog and/or product."
EVOLUTION OF SOCIAL MEDIA
"Consumers are more and more looking for brands on social networks and using it as a customer service platform."
"The ability to filter the information you're receiving."
"One of the biggest changes in social media was broadening the scope of social into traditionally non-social environments. Allowing users to share and be social outside of social networks is a powerful tool and there have emerged some tactical tools for marketers to leverage that behavior (e.g., with 'liking' or video sharing)."
"There has been increased connectivity across the social media outlets. It is easy to sign in across multiple platforms, share across multiple platforms... even signing in on other platforms with Facebook has become a commonality."
Some respondents pointed to developments in particular channels.
"Google+ is forcing other social media channels to innovate farther and faster."
"Google+ seemed to be a flop. This really shed light on the importance of the Facebook format and the fact that not every opportunity is a good opportunity. This has led the industry as a whole to look at new opportunities with a careful eye, even if they are coming from a giant like Google."
"Google's 3rd attempt at Facebook with Google+..."
"I think the biggest development has been the rise of Facebook from the development standpoint. Facebook has always been popular, but with the ease of access to developer APIs, the sort of content created and shared on Facebook has been growing at an astounding rate."
"Sponsored stories in the Facebook marketplace."
"Facebook is sending more traffic than they have in the past."
"Opening of the Facebook API platform."
"We see the majority of our campaigns driving to a brand's Facebook page versus the brand's website."
"Fan growth! And the fact that all brands care about is acquiring fans... they're not as interested in learning to communicate with the fans they currently possess. The linking of Facebook profiles to music sites like Spotify is pretty impressive too. People can now connect over music interests much more easily."
"Pinterest - at least in the world of design social media. We've been using Twitter and Facebook for a few years now and have gained 50,000 followers between the two. In using Pinterest in less than a year we've amassed nearly 500,000 followers. It's been an amazing tool."
"The growth and influence of Twitter."
"Twitter’s advertising model."
"Users are using Twitter's search to find more of our content."
"LinkedIn Today launched its content aggregation service at LinkedIn.com/today/ and it has been a major source of traffic."
Other respondents pointed to more general developments.
"Geo-location played a larger role with a lot of our clients this year."
"The increased and more direct extension of social media into real-world, physical experiences. For example, location- and behavior-based check-ins and applications via platforms such as GetGlue, Go Miso and Facebook Places."
"Mobile devices as an additional source of blogging, tweeting and staying up-to-date on social media. Now you can access and publish information anywhere (on your commute, at work, in your home, etc.)."
"The largest change I've seen is the evolution of mobile/on-the-go social activities such as check-ins and mobile sharing."
"The shift in prominent social presence from online to mobile."
"The most significant development has been the role mobile plays in social media. It adds a new layer of opportunity and complexity when determining how to engage with our customers."
"The tracking that is now available. Measuring organic and paid traffic is a great change within the last year."
"A deeper focus on measuring key business drivers beyond 'engagement' – it's more important than ever to prove the value of social media through an impact to top line revenue."
"The biggest change in social media is the evolving ability to track earned media via sharing functionalities/overlays available in all 'social units' such as viral video. This is truly important in helping us make social media more accountable in our media recommendations and identifying the lift of earned media across our campaigns."
"Facebook screwed around with features so much that it turned a lot of people off. Google+ launched, as the shiny new object of the moment, leading to social media fatigue."
"It's getting harder and harder to keep up with the flow of information. A lot of people seem to be overwhelmed – and that sometimes includes me."
"Saturation of the marketplace. I don't think it's any particular technology."
"Shouting one's message over the glut of trash out there."
We asked: In the coming year, what do you anticipate to be biggest change or the most significant development we will see in social media?
"The advent of more 'fragmented' social platforms. While areas such as Facebook and Twitter will continue to serve as mass portals, there will be an increasing need and more options to supplement those experiences with ones that connect us more deeply with focused passions and networks."
"As some audiences begin wandering from Facebook, I anticipate that there will be greater fragmentation across the sites where specific audiences prefer to spend their time. Yet another hurdle for advertisers."
"I expect we will be seeing a growing trend of more private social media. Less 'broadcast to everyone' and more control over what and who you are sharing with, as we've started to see with Google+ and new Facebook features. I think people are growing sick of having the world know their business."
"More fragmentation as people lose interest."
"More media dollars will be allocated to social media efforts. This paid media will amplify all earned media."
"Social media will act as a campaign leader, rather than a supporter. We will turn to social media first and support through other means."
"Upward growth with our clients specifically – less expensive than other channels and more effective."
"We will probably be using more social media in the upcoming quarters."
"How do we tie everything that we're doing together?"
"Marketers will be smarter about how to harness the power of social media."
"There will not be a single corporation left on the planet that can deny the fact that social media is here to stay. We will stop having to do missionary work to educate corporate leaders. They will realize that there really is no such thing as message control. But then again, control was always an illusion."
"I see more of the large companies gaining a bigger voice."
"Brands will create e-commerce tabs on their Facebook profile pages."
"The continual rise and popularity of Social Commerce."
"I think we will see brands driving to e-commerce through their social graph."
"More commerce on Facebook and an evolution of 'F' commerce."
"More and more companies will start to use bloggers to talk about their products and brands."
"I think it will vary for every sector of social media. You'll probably see a continued trend of bloggers publishing books, particularly in the home and food categories of social media. People will also want to see a dose of reality in social media – see how they fit in to the content on a blog. I think social media, at its core, is about building relationships, and so while blogging is viewed as a legitimate form of media, I think people want to feel like they're having an interaction with a company or author, rather than just being spoken at or marketed to through social media."
"Mobile - as mobile overtakes desktop usage we will see social media even more prominently 'on the go.'"
"There will be a huge shift of social media usage coming from mobile devices. Within the next couple of years, most social media usage will happen via mobile. That means more rapid-fire updates, more photo sharing, more quick 'liking' and 'favoriting,' more location-based social gaming, and more people looking to use social media to provide deeper engagement with their physical worlds."
"Mobile. We all have to adapt our campaigns and messages to match the vehicle our consumers are using."
"Click-to-play videos, measurement of cost per view. The growth of more options for better ways to watch commercials, the ability to sync many different social strategies into one overall synergy. Also, more and more lookalike modeling from a social standpoint."
"More and deeper video integration - like Google Huddle."
"Video's increased role for small businesses entering social media."
"The biggest change to come in social media will be the ability to home in on relevant shared connections and measure actions across those connections, not just people who are sharing but how they are sharing and what is compelling them to share."
"Data mined from social media will continue to be a key developing area for marketers. To go beyond simple cookie-tracked behavior but to also track users with higher social relevance (especially in various industries) will be helpful for marketers to make their marketing messages more impactful."
"Increased trackability and defining of success metrics."
"Users will accept even less privacy."
"Social media channels will be even more connected – known as global social brain."
"Social media will continue to become less centralized and [more] integrated into everything. Media will soon mean social media – 'social' will be implied and assumed."
"My assumption is the connectivity across all facets... Spotify will continue to grow, Timeline on Facebook, blogging and posting... all these outputs provide a way to put everything in order and make it accessible anywhere, and to anyone you want. Instant gratification will become the standard in terms of retail, sharing, connecting with friends/family."
"Consolidation: marrying up of many social media updating tools, analytics packages, and more companies priding themselves as the best social media site or network."
"Continued heightened privacy concerns and more integration with print and TV (hashtags/QR codes)."
"Better advertising opportunities that are more seamlessly integrated into the actual social space."
"Increased effectiveness of each campaign without disturbing the flow of the social network."
"Music platforms. 100%. It's the new radio, it's the new way to see what your fans like, what their tastes are, who to attach yourself to."
"The music space is ever changing. Pandora has been around for a while now, and with the likes of MOG, Spotify, Grooveshark, and Slacker the space has the opportunity to define itself in the social media sphere. Spotify is the first on the radar, and I think Pandora is trying. I hope social media allows these music services to define themselves and take the business to the next generation of innovation."
"The emergence of Twitter as a platform for advertisers."
"I anticipate advertising spending on Twitter to increase significantly."
"Games on Twitter."
"I think location-based functionality will be elevated. The way users and advertisers choose to embrace Locations will set the stage for how everyone uses it in the future."
"Location will continue to emerge on every platform, not just on the check-in services."
"The continued growth of Tumblr. QR codes continue to evolve and provide a more sophisticated, holistic social/mobile experience. SoMoLo will grow in consumer relevance and in business focus."
"I believe the changes Facebook announced at F8 were game changers. The most compelling social campaigns we'll see this year will surround how people interact with brands through apps. And how these stories on Facebook translate into engagement and then ultimately revenue. How to track these results will be essential to growing in our segment."
"Integrations with Facebook. For instance, the new iOS Apple platform is making leaps and bounds by integrating Facebook and other social media extensions."
"I think Facebook is going to get a backlash for making their interface too complicated."
"Going back to Facebook... I think the advent of the new timeline will force a lot of other companies to consider the layout and dissemination of their content at the user level. Previously, most systems were designed and developed from an enterprise standpoint, but it's becoming a larger consideration to determine what the most effective options are for enriching the individual user's experience."
"If Google+ can gain traction in the marketplace, I think they could really widen the marketplace. Otherwise, I think we'll see Facebook continue to innovate and create new products and ways to reach consumers."
"Google+ reaches the critical mass to beat Facebook head to head."
"I think LinkedIn will chill out and let more APIs integrate. Would love to see some cool new apps there."