Last Friday, Lynne d Johnson (the ARF’s social media expert), Steve Rappaport (director of ARF Knowledge solutions and author of the ARF’s Online Listening Playbook), and I went to lunch to discuss how social media has progressed over the past year from a marketer’s perspective.
While last year the story was about the specific media (Twitter came out of nowhere, Facebook eclipsed My Space), this year, it’s a story about marketers getting real about social media.
Now we have great case histories that demonstrate the power of social media from a marketing, innovation, and insights perspective. We also have a reaffirmed understanding of the power that social media places in the hands of consumers (ask Toyota).
Last year, social media was still a little theoretical. Now it’s real. The advertising models are starting to emerge, consumer-created beverages (e.g. Vitamin Water Connect) via Facebook and proprietary environments have gotten launched, and listening is now being used a source of shopper insights that manufacturers are sharing with retail partners. Yes, even the most primal of marketers…retail merchants…are listening!
I believe that the principles of brand management are changing in our digital age (I’ll actually be teaching an MBA course at NYU on this). Marketing teams guide the meaning of brands but no longer control it. You have to let consumers into your brand. There are only two possibilities—either consumers don’t care about your brand, or they DO care and if they do, they want to be heard. If you are not encouraging conversation, you will risk turning ambassadors into angry activists.
In the new digital age, creating this access and authenticity means you start with listening (how are conversations starting, where do they take place, what is the language?) and then evolves into you becoming a welcomed part of a community. In this world, research and insights lead to marketing, rather than insisting on their separation (the language of surveys always begins, “we are conducting a marketing research study and won’t sell you anything”).
In a world where you have put the human at the center of marketing thinking, listening is critical and social media is a huge conversation catalyst.
To move the industry forward, the ARF is conducting its “Social Media Bootcamp” for the second year. This year, there is a greater emphasis on case histories (Facebook, Kraft, and Vitamin Water who gave fans the tools to create a new flavor that was launched in March) because that is the stage we are at. BIG marketers, are now taking social media seriously, not just those who couldn’t afford TV.
Social media is getting real and marketers and marketing researchers need to understand what this means for their business and how to set up effective social media strategies.