When social media really started to hit the scene in a big way in the mid-2000s, predictions of its coming dominance were rife. The speculation began as far back as 2005, with media bloggers at Slate wondering if the Internet would herald the death of television, presciently citing p2p-sharing and time-shifted on-demand viewing as the harbingers of that (predicted) doom. But with the benefit of some 20/20 hindsight in 2015, perhaps the cart was being put before the horse a little.
Although social media and interactive advertising goes from strength to strength, it hasn’t been quite the TV-killer pundits assumed. Instead, we find ourselves in a world where social media and traditional media each have their parts to play. “Television advertising may have dropped in relevance but it still holds a lot of credibility in people’s minds,” says Tom Reidy, social media agency Catalyst90’s CEO. “The real ‘silver bullet’ for marketers is in integration, stitching all these different platforms together.”
Admittedly, this is not the sort of thing people are used to hearing social media agency heads say. But Reidy’s view is that social media agencies, with their focus on nimble technology and production, are important strategy partners during early stages of campaign planning with more traditional agencies, ensuring the right content for the right platform for the right audience is produced, and backed up by solid customer service and retention.
Not just another channel
In the early days of social media, brands flocked to it with the idea that it could be treated as “just another channel,” says Reidy. They brought an advertising mindset that was all about selling a product, but left out the service component – whether or not the product could live up to the hype.
“That’s where agencies got it wrong because the focus was on the advertising of the product and not the follow up, not the retention,” he says. Consumers forced brands into two-way conversations, taking to social media not just to amplify approved marketing messages, but their own likes and gripes. And a brand’s response—or lack thereof—has the power to earn or lose massive amounts of public goodwill.
“Like it or not, awareness quickly becomes reputation and if you don’t have your reputation locked down on social media, and if you don’t have a plan to retain your audience, your campaigns will merely amplify your brand’s failings,” Reidy says.
“A great strategy will create the foundation for execution across all channels, and content can then be adapted for success in each specific context. Ideally, the strategy will create realistic aspirations for the audience across multiple and complementary channels.” Tom Reidy.
A simple plan
Despite the enhancements that social media and other technology have brought to the marketing discipline, the importance of knowing who your audience is—and where they are—hasn’t changed. Answering that question is where any good strategy starts, and a strategy is where any good integrated campaign starts.
Different platforms call for different approaches and an understanding of how people interact with that content, whether it’s a TV commercial, a YouTube pre-roll or a seven-second Vine video. Simply cutting shorter or longer versions of the same content isn’t going to work. Social media and traditional media can work well together, and second-screening behaviour means users are primed by TVCs to engage more deeply online. But this extended engagement needs to be planned for at the outset, not as an afterthought.
“A great strategy will create the foundation for execution across all channels, and content can then be adapted for success in each specific context,” Reidy says. “Ideally, the strategy will create realistic aspirations for the audience across multiple and complementary channels.”
It’s here that brands are most familiar: using a mix of advertising channels to engage consumers and to drive awareness, trust and positioning.
“Advertising and marketing are no longer one-off campaigns or events, they’re a constantly evolving series of iterative campaigns,” says Reidy. “So each phase needs to be evaluated, refined and redistributed to make maximum impact, and this can be achieved through the power of live social research.”
Social and digital media have the advantage of being infinitely trackable and measurable, and that—along with the qualitative feedback from consumers online and off—can help direct refinements of future messaging.
This phase is all about customer service, from point-of-sale through to problem solving associated with faults or issues, and ultimately towards building a loyal fanbase of the product or service.
“If your TVC successfully drives people to engage on Facebook or Twitter, you immediately increase your opportunities to reach them with content suited to that audience. Instead of squandering that by failing to plan for retention, put a smart strategy in place,” says Reidy. “Keep testing at key points across all phases to perfect your approach.”
Taken together, these key phases should form a feedback loop for continual refinement of the message and the medium.
“We like to think of these phases as a flight path for integrated marketing, featuring social media. Following this path really does allow your brand to take off; when all the components are working well together across the right channels, you’ll be flying.”