AdweekMedia Connect Report: Social media still poses challenges, fears, and questions for brands

picture-43Last Wednesday,  I had the pleasure of hosting AdweekMedia Connects’s weekly chat.  The subject? What else? Social media. We had folks from agencies — PR, advertising, integrated, and digital — all over the world join for an hour-long discussion.  And while these things are usually out of control, we managed to keep it somewhat focused.

Here’s a recap of the conversation.  It’s not quantitative research; just what marketers who are thinking about this stuff have to say.

There are still many challenges for brands
For those of us who live in the space, it’s easy to forget that most brands and marketers have yet to show up.  Some in this chat related that,  “It’s a challenge for many clients just deciding whether to participate in social media at all.”  More than a few brands think they should get into social, but still consider it merely a means to “market themselves,” rather than a way to join the conversation. As a result they approach it wrong, if at all.  Others struggle with how many resources (people, hours, money) they should commit to something they don’t really understand yet requires a lot of time.  And finally, many simply can’t break old habits and expectations that have been honed on years of pushing out messages in paid media.

Fear of losing control remains an issue
We can all make the argument that there’s a conversation going on whether you’re there or not.  We can point out Mad Men and Coca Cola , two brands that have let go, allowing consumers to create content and become a voice for the brand.  But a lot of clients are still petrified. “Fear’s a big factor with my clients.”  “Loss of control is a concern.”  I can tell you I’ve run into the same reaction with some of my clients even after showing them negative comments and discussion that are already out there in part because of their absence.  Seems we still have a ways to go on this front.

You have to use it to get it
This is a big one for agencies and clients.  You can’t get social media it until you use it.  No number of Powerpoint presentations, or charts, or growth rates, or user numbers can convince a reluctant brand of the value of social media. Nor can all the decks and data get anyone from a marketing agency to understand how to sell, advise or counsel a client on how to use social media.  The best thing agencies can do for themselves is get out there: on the content sites, the networks, on Tumblr and Ning.  Everyone needs to experiment, learn, try things, build a following, fail, recover.  “The more you use the tools, the better you will be at incorporating then into your communications programs.”

What do CMOs need?
First and foremost:  strategic intelligence.  Some expressed the opinion that social media has to be done internally, so CMOs need to build teams and use agencies as consultants.  Others argued that CMOs will need to build strategic partnerships among multiple agencies (easier said than done) in order to get best of breed SEO, PR, social, blog outreach, technology and branding.  Some think it will all become one thing eventually.  I’m still of the thought that the best agencies in the future will harbor all the capabilities, from branding to public relations to social media to user experience, or at least create seamless alliances with partners.  Otherwise there will be no synergies or efficiencies across a marketing program.

Metrics, measurement, monetization
Finally, we touched on how to measure and what to measure.  Clients want the metrics.  But the fact is with all the moving parts, no one, from Radian6 to Techrigy to agencies themselves have mastered tools that can perfectly assess quantitative (clicks, followers, links), qualitative (feelings, thoughts, opinions), and the holy grail itself (sales).  So there weren’t a lot of answers, just more questions.

Here are three other questions that I never got to ask.  Feel free to answer any that you can.

Is it possible for brands and marketers to actually integrate their offline, online, mobile and social efforts so that they amplify each other?

Does creativity, originality, being inventive matter in social media?

How important is it for marketers and agency types to build their personal brand and social media presence?

12 comments
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Gerardo Ritchey
Gerardo Ritchey

Does creativity, originality, being inventive matter in social media?

Absolutely. With social media, brands need now, more than ever, to start telling a story about their product. Humans have this need to connect, relate to, and care about things. I think that a lot of brands out there, are making a huge mistake in not diving into social media, and using it as a conversational platform.

The brands that are figuring out exactly how to connect with those three basic social human necessities, are the ones that are going to have the greatest impact and success in the coming years. The social networking sites have already done it. If the commerce folks figure out a way of doing it, and some have, are going to be absolutely unstoppable.

Connie Bensen
Connie Bensen

Hi Edward,
You mentioned the two key points fear and relationships. Communication is the key to overcoming fear and building the latter. That will take time.

As I help our customers explore biz dev't options with Techrigy SM2 it becomes quickly apparent that having the tool is really helpful in efficiently identifying trends and locations to engage in social media efforts. CMO's need that information to make educated decisions and to provide them with the benchmarks and metrics for their engagements. And yes I agree that they should start with small steps and build on success (as well as learn from failures).

some great discussion, thanks!
Connie
Chief Community Officer, Techrigy
@cbensen

edward boches
edward boches

The loss of control argument holds no water. Whether a brand is there or not, it's the subject of conversation: positive, neutral, negative. I think that brands that are there, Comcast, for example, realize they are better off addressing the negative and attempting to stimulate the positive. More importantly, they get a sense of what matters so they can adjust behavior. Resistance, when there is any, comes because brands look at social media as "marketing and/or communications" -- where they have typically had control over the message, its timing and its distribution -- rather than an ongoing conversations with its customers.

Leo Bottary
Leo Bottary

Great conversation Edward! Let me ask you this: What do you think about the loss of control argument? I personally think it operates from a false premise. You can't lose what you never had! If you really think about it, when we were ever in control? We CAN control our words and actions. It's the same today as it ever was, but we CANNOT control what people think of us - never did and never will.

I believe that when clients raise this concern, we should respectfully challenge the premise and not give in to this red herring. What do you and others think about this?

Leo Bottary’s last blog post..Focus On Commmunicating

edward boches
edward boches

Deanna:
We all start out as sponges, and if we're smart we stay absorbent forever. The only way to learn. Your comments are all good, and the fact that you are thinking about this stuff and learning to express your opinions articulately will serve you well.

Deanna
Deanna

As a self-professed social media sponge, I have found the discussions here to be very insightful. Thanks for sharing :)

To answer your questions:

1. Is it possible for brands and marketers to actually integrate to amplify?

Why not. Marketers have integrated television, radio and print for decades. Web sites and online campaigns have provided additional fire to the flames in more recent times. And now - we meet the challenge of social media. I not only think it is "possible" to integrate efforts across all of these platforms, I believe it is crucial to success. It comes down to defining a brand's image -- a voice, a personality, a take on the world -- and communicating in that voice across ALL creative platforms and consumer interactions with the brand.

2. Does creativity, originality, being inventive matter in social media?

Yes. And those who are the most creative, original and inventive probably already dominate the social media playing field.

Having a sense of humor doesn't hurt either. And companies who aren't afraid to let go know that -- like JetBlue (see below).

Meghano writes: I want to make love to the @jetblue terminal.

JetBlue: @meaghano Goodness... I hope you at least buy the terminal dinner first!

3. How important is it for marketers and agency types to build their personal brand and social media presence?

Crucial. Like you said, you have to "use it to get it." Establishing your own social media presence will provide insight into how to grow your clients' presence and provide them with more value.

Plus, when it comes down to it -- people want to engage in conversation with people. They might want to follow a company profile for product updates and sale alerts, and maybe *crossing fingers* to contribute positive content to your sites. But if they love the brand -- they are going to want to talk about it. With PEOPLE. And who knows a brand more than the people who are selling it. (At least let's hope so!)

But I'm just a sponge, so what do I know ;)

Deanna Lazzaroni
Aspiring Matchmaker,
Specializing in Brand+Consumer Relationships

http://deannalazzaroni.com
Follow me on twitter @guiltyofcraving

edward boches
edward boches

It's the different agencies (or disciplines) not working together that make it almost impossible for CMOs to achieve ultimate effectiveness. Just one reason they never last more than a year in their job.

Stuart Foster
Stuart Foster

Never even thought of the different agencies angle...that's extremely interesting (and kind of surprising in some respects) that companies would choose to not be exclusive. Then again, hedging your bets and pinching pennies probably go hand in hand.

Stuart Foster’s last blog post..Conferences 101: Brand Defense for Start-ups

edward boches
edward boches

Stuart,
Your comments are thoughtful as always. I know they were sort of leading questions. I agree that all efforts should work in harmony, but way easier said than done. In some cases clients have many different agencies working on respective disciplines and they don't even talk to each other. Or if they do it's with one hand extended and the other holding a knife behind their back. I personally believe the creative thing matters and will matter more. SEO can elevate your organic search, but if it's not interesting content to begin with it won't get RTd, read, clicked on and eventually it won't come up on page one anymore. And finally, the individual brand thing comes down to who does anyone want to do business with? A company? Or a person? If the latter, then every agency (and every company that sells something, product or service) would be wise to push more of its individuals to the forefront.

edward boches
edward boches

Amber,
Appreciate your stopping by. Radian6 is a great tool for tracking conversation and many of the metrics that are measurable and that let a brand know where it stands and to what degree its efforts at content generation and distribution are working. But as you know, we're all still working to help clients figure out exactly what they might expect to get back from their investment in social media. There are many things we can measure, but it's still hard to predict outcomes. I have no doubt that you will be among those who do figure it out.

Stuart Foster
Stuart Foster

Is it possible for brands and marketers to actually integrate their offline, online, mobile and social efforts so that they amplify each other?

Yes. Integrated communications should be the primary focus of any social media effort. You are merely utilizing a new form/medium to communicate in. You should utilize a multi-tiered attack to best take advantage of this. The difference in the SM world? You have to simultaneously add value...not just make something look cool. If you can pull that off then you will have accomplished your mission.

Does creativity, originality, being inventive matter in social media?

Absolutely. Those who know how to express themselves in the most effective an unique manner will always be able to come out on top. Having self-promotion skills here is also a major benefit.

How important is it for marketers and agency types to build their personal brand and social media presence?

Enormous importance. If you haven't started...you are already behind. Personal brands can serve as advocates of the parent brand and become super-evangelists. You are already in the space...take advantage of it and become a thought leader.

Stuart Foster’s last blog post..Conferences 101: Brand Defense for Start-ups

Amber Naslund
Amber Naslund

Hi Edward,

You raise an important point about measurement, and I think it's such a critical topic. Truth is, I'm not sure the metrics we've had even before now have been all that perfect. Communication isn't an exact science, and while we can track a number of the influence factors, drawing a direct line from touchpoint to sales is always going to be one part measurement and a couple of parts circumstance.

What we hope to help companies do is track the metrics and outcomes that are most relevant to *them*, and hopefully help guide better business decisions as a result.

Thanks for the thoughtful recap of your discussion, and for always staying connected.

Cheers,
Amber Naslund
Director of Community, Radian6