Since the first marketer uploaded that first Facebook brand post, there has been much discussion around social media, its role in content marketing, and ultimately how it benefits brands.
For those brands that have thoughtfully integrated their social into their content marketing strategy – and that understand the tactical capabilities of each social platform they use – the benefits have often proven to be game-changing.
I saw this in a big way as a member of the jury panel for the 2015 National Addy Awards. It was no surprise to me that many of the smartest, most inspired campaigns included or were led by a robust social media component.
This compelled me to ping some savvy brand marketers to ask about the use of social media in their marketing and hear where they believe social media stands in its evolution as a content marketing tool.
(Note: None of the marketers featured are clients of my agency.)
The intent of this outreach was to see if social media – in the eyes of brands – is delivering at a level that lives up to its potential. It also can illuminate for people on the agency side, what brand marketers perceive they are really getting from their social media efforts.
“What is the real benefit of social media in relation to your marketing efforts and what do you see as its potential?”
Dave Skena (@dsflna) whose background as a consultant at Accenture and vice president of marketing at PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay makes him one of the most insightful marketers I know:
“I have definitely seen the results of social media marketing show up in brand awareness and, by inference, in consumption. However, hard, quantitative data that correlates directly to sales is still hard to come by.
Until that evolves, the main benefit I’ve seen for brands, especially challenger brands, is how social media enables direct conversations with early, loyal consumers and gives the brand a forum to offer tools and information so those fans can spread the word.
The ability to measure social media efforts more effectively is coming soon and, I believe, this is when we’ll see brands invest even more heavily. This more confident investment will spur innovation and really explode the potential of social as a marketing tool.”
Jay Barton, the founder and CEO who built fitness-apparel brand Aesthetic Revolution from the ground up:
“We have grown well past the point where we could do what we would really like to do – meet every customer face-to-face to share the passion and beliefs of our brand.
As a result, social media is a big solution for us on a number of levels.
First, I’ve never been a fan of traditional digital marketing. It has always felt invasive to me and I was not going to batter the people I care about – my customers – with spammy emails and pop-up ads.
Social media, when used authentically, respects the intelligence of the consumer – so it’s very on-brand for us. It allows a person to more thoughtfully decide if he or she identifies with a brand and, as we’ve seen time and again, this respect creates a much more invested and loyal customer base.
It also delivers what we desire most in our customer relationship — community. We know that the community is what has built our brand and we understand it will be the foundation for our ongoing success.”
Sandy Rhyneer (@ppgnhi), director of marketing and communications for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaii, views social media through the lens of a marketer who provides personal health-care services:
“While social media serves as an avenue to create a dialogue with supporters and potential patients in real time, what’s most important is the opportunity to interact with them on a more personal level in an effort to deepen their connection to our mission.
Social media provides a platform to talk to these audiences in an informal, conversational way and it has an important reciprocal effect because it enables immediate patient feedback.
For ensuring we deliver the highest levels of patient care, there is nothing more useful than the comments and suggestions we receive from patients.
The insights we glean from social media have led to positive changes in the way we offer and deliver services. It has definitely helped us become better at what we do and make our patients happier. That’s always the goal.
I’m looking forward to the next wave of platform innovations in this space and evaluating what we can leverage to be even more connected with current and potential patients.”
Chris Cashbaugh (@SOGKnives), director of marketing for specialty knives and tools company SOG, has leveraged social media as a way to optimize product development and customer support:
“The biggest benefit SOG sees from social media is that we get one-on-one, almost real-time access to our core, most vocal customers and fans. We get to hear what they love, hate, and think we should be doing.
All of this allows us to gauge, earlier than ever, how our new products are received. As a result, we’re able to speed up product development cycles and get improvements into the pipeline sooner than ever before.
Negative feedback helps us as much as positive interaction, if not more, by identifying potential issues that we can address to ensure happier customers.
The challenging part about being a highly social brand is in finding that balance between addressing customer needs without overreacting to every question and comment. However, that’s a small price to pay for the privilege of having a very engaged fan base that, because of social media, can be highly vocal about its passion for our products.
Because of social media, our customers and fans are always sharing with us ways to use and enjoy our products that we never imagined.
They’re also spreading the word to others in the form of authentic, third-party endorsements. As a marketer, you have to be thrilled with that.”
So, as a marketer or an agency professional, what are the primary benefits you’ve been deriving from the use of social media in your content marketing?
Where, in your estimation, has the channel delivered and where has it lagged? What do you see as its greatest, untapped potential? What do you believe is next (and most exciting) on the innovation front?
Let’s keep the conversation going and, as a community, continue to share our knowledge and stories. This will provide the kind of real-life perspectives required to innovate across this channel, drive more measurable success, and lift the boats of everyone in the marketing community.
To expand your social media and insight, read more at Content Marketing Institute’s social media content hub.
Cover image by Jeff Sheldon, Unsplash, via pixabay.com