The Next Generation of Social Marketing

By Maya Grinberg, Social Media Manager, Wildfire Interactive

Summing up social marketing in 2011 and making predictions for the coming year is a daunting task! 2011 saw more industry growth than any other year; we saw the widespread acceptance of social marketing for B2B companies, and we witnessed moments that are likely to echo beyond 2011: the debut of Google+, the introduction of Facebook Timelines, and an amusing concession to social media silliness by the White House, via the now infamous rickroll.

* This post was originally published in the Huffington Post.

On the local front, we asked our Account Strategists about their observations of trends over the year. Our team of strategists works every day with the biggest brands in the world, hands-on in helping to craft and maintain the strongest social marketing strategies on the web. Our marketing strategists noted a dramatic rise in clients’ needs to set specific marketing objectives for each social campaign. Objectives fell into three key areas:

1. Growth of the brand presence (fans, likes, follows, and subscriptions)
2. Engagement of the brand audience (comments, shares, and user generated content)
3. Monetization of fans (qualified leads, or sales driven from social pages)

Before 2011, social marketing efforts focused almost exclusively on growth – in a recent Wildfire survey, social media marketers noted “growth of fans or followers” as the top measurement of success, and the primary definition of positive ROI. We predict a shift from the emphasis on growth in the coming year as engagement becomes the most buzzed-about measurement of 2012. The generalized category of “social media marketing” will break apart too, with more specific business objective-based goals and models to achieve those goals.

In 2011, we saw little integration between branded social campaigns and the brand’s other marketing activities. You might have seen one editorial campaign on a brand’s website, only to see something different on Facebook, with no mention of either initiative via the brand’s email, television or radio channels. Too often consumers found themselves on a brand’s Facebook page served with a message absent elsewhere. Progressive brands will approach their marketing plans with an integrated social channel— more than just a messaging strategy, or a page content calendar, or a promotions schedule, winning brands will need figure out how all the pieces of the social puzzle fit in with a complete marketing plan.

In 2012, Wildfire predicts that the industry will follow an integrated social campaign approach, following the example of savvy social marketers like So Delicious, who linked their “Change Your Milk, Change Your Life” efforts across TV, outdoor, online and print advertising. The campaign, centered around celebrity spokesperson Jillian Michaels, reflected the brand’s message about changing ones life and reached audiences on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, the company’s website, the company’s blog, Youtube, and in print.

The effort was worth it: the results from just one of the 3-month, Wildfire-powered campaigns, were enviable, as So Delicious grew its fan base from 5,200 to over 59,000 fans – an increase of over 1,000%! The brand received 322,664 total entries, averaging 3,226 entries per day. So Delicious recorded its two highest sales days ever, while unit sales increased by 74%, and category share increased by 60%.
In 2012, integrated marketing efforts will swallow standalone social media plans, and more companies will follow the approach that one major initiative should guide the objectives and editorial plans of each marketing channel.

In 2011, users got a lot more sophisticated in how they use social networks. In fact, we saw that a user’s initial interest in a brand socially was no indication of whether they would stick around for the long haul. Top reasons cited for “unliking” a brand on Facebook included: “they post too much” (44%), “my wall was becoming too crowded with marketing posts and I needed to remove some of them” (43%), and “the content became repetitive or boring over time” (38%).In 2012, brands that want to develop long-term relationships will make sure to deliver consistent value and entertainment to their audiences. “Likes” will be granted more selectively (as users increasingly get how liking a brand reflects their personal taste, for better or worse). We will see more unique, targeted content, and more sophistication in promotions as well, as those ubiquitous iPad giveaways lose their positive brand impact. In fact, our customers’ top 250 campaigns of 2011 prove it — none of the campaigns gave away an iPad. Prize giving was more strategic and audience relevant, and prizes reinforced the brand.

In addition, more descriptive and frictionless sharing of people’s actions beyond the “Like” is already underway with Facebook’s support for social applications. In this way, endorsements made by friends will extend further and further past just the “like,” to include any variety of enticing action words like “played,” “watched,” “shopped,” and “read.”

Finally, in 2011, Facebook and Twitter gave customer service a kick in the rear. Social media is supposed to be a two way street, and consumers are treating branded pages as message boards that go straight to the board room (two such fiascos—both unscripted “celebrity versus airline” disputes involving Kevin Smith and Alec Baldwin — made big waves this year, for example). In fact, 62% of consumers used social media for customer support! While most brands have a long way to go for true interaction (approximately 95% of fan-written wall posts go unanswered), more and more users are demanding (and businesses are responding) that any brand who asks for their affinity, had better be responsive to their requests as well.
While this post doesn’t cover all of 2011’s social media industry trends and predictions (find the complete report here), keep an eye out for more targeted social marketing objectives, integrated campaigns, increased user sophistication and preferences, and the rise of social for customer service in 2012. Download the complete report, including several marketing trends not mentioned in this article, here.

What do you think of the trends and predictions we mentioned?  What would you add?


WildFire Interactive are Gold Sponsors of this year’s Social Media World Forum in London. For more information on how to register for this year’s event please click here.

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