Social Marketing in 2014: The New Normal

Social marketing made big strides in 2013. From a surge in time spent on social in mobile to the introduction of advanced targeting strategies, social continued its migration to the mainstream and helped marketers reach more consumers than ever before. Reach alone, though, has never been the smart marketers’ sole objective. The real opportunity in social marketing for brands is about delivering great experiences to build lasting, personal relationships. Will we get there in 2014? Yes, but it’ll take some work.

In 2013 social networks like Facebook and Twitter put technology solutions for targeting in place to make social marketing more precise and audience-driven. When social marketing first emerged, brands made a land-grab for followers and then blanketed their broad audience with untargeted messages. Now, these new targeting capabilities allow marketers to deliver messages to individuals based on a combination of social interest, third-party, and customer-specific data. As a result social marketing has pivoted from just a mass “broadcast” communication medium into a personalized, relationship-focused platform. Audience-driven social targeting is enabling one-to-one marketing—delivering relevance at scale. Certainly, the Holy Grail for marketers.  

Now, brands must overhaul their current one-to-many marketing strategies and focus on creating one-to-one relationships.

REI is a brand paving the path for how to target content well. On Facebook, the company surfaces content about kayaking or camping to fans that show interest in those specific outdoor pursuits. This simple yet powerful targeting strategy delivers personalized experiences and REI has built one of the most engaged fan bases on Facebook. What’s more, the company is extending these experiences on owned channels with programs like its 1440 Project, where outdoor enthusiasts can submit and search for media tailored to their individual interests.

A change in mind-set needs to take place for brands to build personal lasting relationships. Here’s what it’s going to take to get there:

Stop thinking like an advertiser

Nobody joins a social network to get marketing messages. Brands must remember that social media is fundamentally about relationships—personally, we all follow our family and friends. The average consumer only “likes” 10 brands and actively engages with only five on social. The engagement decision is not one taken lightly by consumers. In fact, 78% of these same people say they are influenced by brands they follow. Consumers believe there’s a place for brands in their newsfeeds. That place is delivering interesting, engaging, useful, human content—not spammy ads. Shift focus from amassing followers to attracting quality, engaged fans. The new normal is delivering great experiences that keep followers excited and hooked.

Build a content economy of scale

New audience-based social targeting means you now have more chances to get organic content in the newsfeeds of key demographic and psychographic segments. But targeting also brings new challenges: In a non-targeted social world brands only needed a few campaigns to blast out to all fans and followers. Now they must create, distribute, and manage hundreds of pieces of content on specific topics each month to reach a greater number of individual audiences—making marketers’ jobs harder. Scale is possible by repurposing and revamping existing content for social channels, or even leveraging community relationships to utilize user-generated content in more interesting, relevant ways.

Organize your data

Audience-based social targeting requires vast amounts of data to be effective. Customer information, purchase history, Web behavior, and demographic and psychographic insights can now be combined with social interest data to reach highly segmented audiences. This means marketers must put their “data houses” in order to enhance and grow social relationships. This also requires a behavior change. Brands’ social teams must now learn to leverage data and analytics as part of their ongoing strategy—not just for after-the-fact reporting. The role of the social analyst is on the rise, and with it brings the promise of a deeper understanding to nurture customer relationships in ways that are more impactful.

In 2014 social marketing will get closer to a one-to-one medium, but only if brands find a way to create and manage conversations and engagement through content at scale. Social is not about putting the right ad in front of the right person. It is about putting the right content in front of the right person. Social brands that continue to think like advertisers, rather than friends, will miss this unique chance to build individual relationships with key customers—the foundation of every successful business.

Jim Rudden is CMO at Spredfast

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