Strategists often discuss social media as yet another channel for marketing and customer engagement, and indeed it is. Digital culture, however, is highly iterative, and social media is no exception. Marketers need to be nimble and adaptive with their social messaging and campaigns, and they must also recognize how social media has reshaped marketing communication on a macro level.
Here are three ways to future-proof your social media strategies.
Explore collaborative commerce
According to a 2013 Nielsen study, 84% of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, making word-of-mouth one of the most powerful marketing tactics this side of Twitter. With consumers wielding such considerable marketing power, it stands to reason that integrating shoppers into the day-to-day business operations could prove invaluable. It certainly did for AirBnB and Uber.
“When you look at the Ubers of the world you have to look beyond them simply being a new technology. [These companies] have instituted a whole new business model that’s built on collaboration with consumers,” says Brian Kristofek, president and CEO at marketing agency Upshot. “If you think of [Uber] as a business model, it provides a framework for innovation,” Upshot’s VP of marketing intelligence Liz Aviles adds.
In addition to more contemporary examples such as AirBnB or Uber, Amazon, AutoTrader, and eBay represent longstanding proof of the success businesses can achieve when they open up to consumers. Companies founded on principles of open source technology, such as Android or Wikipedia, are poignant examples of a paradigm shift sweeping through modern business; one where brands acknowledge that consumers trust each other, and innovative marketers make it a priority to encourage consumer-to-consumer behavior. “[This] is all enabled by this new social economy, and brought together by technology,” Kristofek says.
Target omnicultural demographics
Millennials have shown themselves to be politically and socially inclusive. Marketers who wish to connect with this increasingly influential group also should consider inclusive practices. “Our population has grown more diverse. As marketers and brands, we need to talk about shared cultural trends, not specific demographics,” Kristofek says. Kristofek advises marketers to extend this idea beyond mere messages and execute omnicultural marketing through online and TV ads. “You have to show the diversity of the population,” he says.
Embrace authenticity and transparency
Brands must consider that the consumers who are driving this digital age grew up during the heydays of TV ads and mass marketing, resulting in a disconnect with marketing. “Over time, brands have gotten almost too shiny for consumers,” Kristofek says. “When brands are stripped down and true to themselves, that [authenticity and simplicity] resonates with people better than when [brands] overpromise.”
Transparency is among social media’s most appealing aspects. People love to watch their friends’ lives unfold through Facebook or catch pithy puffs of personality on Twitter. Though the rules of engagement slightly differ on each platform, consumers look for transparency throughout the social Web.
“[Marketers] have talked about the next evolution of transparency for the last few years,” Upshot’s Aviles says. “What we’re seeing on social media shows how important it is for brands to be more personal and human in their messaging on social channels. Regardless of what category your business is in, this is what consumers are looking for.”