Social Marketing's Golden Age Starts Now

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Marketing is the tip of the spear when it comes to social media adoption within an enterprise. Other departments might be enthusiastic about one aspect or another of social, like the FLiT applications—which is my shorthand for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter—but marketing has adopted more aspects of social than any other group.

Take a look at this data. It shows that marketers already understand the critical need for social media and its various components all along the marketing continuum. So while sales might be happy using the FLiT tools to send out information (and they are according to our data), marketing has taken an early lead in applying social to all parts of the customer interaction process.

Q7. Select the business functions in your MARKETING organization that are already using social media, planning to use it, or have no plans to use it.

Figure 6 Social media in MARKETING processes



Our research also shows that marketers have been quite resourceful in selecting from the whole array of solutions that social offers. Perhaps the most important idea coming out of this adoption isn't just the technology that's being embraced, but the methods too. The whole idea of social isn't simply to find a better, faster, and less costly way to send a message to a prospective customer--though we see plenty of that. Using social to send out the same old messages and offers is like using buckshot against a housefly. Better to change your ways and use a fly swatter to avoid the collateral damage of the buckshot.

For marketers that means not only messaging, but listening. Most marketers have an acute sense of the importance of listening; however, that appreciation is not often understood by those who demand “results.” The advent of social and advanced analytics means that marketers can now have both. Capturing customer data through social and running it through analytics software to derive actionable information is the new black. But you knew that, right?

Not long ago, analytics was a catch-all phrase that meant understanding how much customers liked you and your products—reminiscent of Sally Fields at the Oscars. “You really like me!”

No.

Analytics places in marketing's hands the power to understand the big data cloud your customers make. If you want to filter for emotion or intention or sarcasm or parse a phrase, there are applications for all of that. No more wondering what the 20 people in last month's focus group actually meant.

Analytics goes hand-in-hand with social and makes up what we think of as social marketing. If social is what you use to communicate with customers, analytics is what you use to understand what's been said and parse it into opportunities or new product requirements, or who knows? Social is the thing that helps you listen, analytics helps you understand, and then social enables you to communicate back your understanding in the form of right messages, offers, and even products.

Marketers have been looking for this kind of technology for decades. They've known what they wanted to do and why conventional approaches were less than adequate. But we've all had to wait for computer hardware to become more powerful and for software developers to imagine different applications. It's all here now. That arrival of good, fast, inexpensive, and easy-to-use social marketing technologies is one reason research firm Gartner predicts that in the near future the CMO will be spending more on technology than the CIO.

Spoiler alert, the CIO isn't going the way of the saber tooth tiger, but this does mean that marketing's seat in the boardroom is becoming more assured. That implies a shift in the marketing job, too. Brochures and press releases will always be important, but each of us needs to adopt the vocabulary of data and information, trends, and fact-driven decisions.

It's a good time to be in marketing; just look at the data.

  Denis Pombriant is founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group LLC. His research on such topics as social CRM and social responsibility is widely read in North America and in Europe.
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