Media, marketing execs debate keys to social media success
It's been a long, strange trip for media companies. This year, “flat is the new up,” Meredith Video Solutions VP of Sales and Business Development JR McCabe said at an Advertising Week session on Monday. While most publishers aren't making much money, the smart ones are accepting the fact that their audience is voraciously consuming content on digital platforms—especially if that platform is social.
“Sixty-two percent of Internet users are actively involved in social networks,” Mediabrands President and CEO Nick Brien told the audience at OMMA Global New York on Monday.
The game changers from a media standpoint are the rise of real-time communication and mobility (e.g. Twitter) and the use of open systems, according to Jonathan Miller, CEO of News Corporation's digital media group.
Watch what you say
Lisa Donahue, CEO of Starcom USA, reminded media and marketing companies to get comfortable with “failing forward” in the social media space. While it may seem counterintuitive to launch a less-than-perfect social media presence, industry leaders have maintained that something is better than nothing. Of course, all agreed that having a social media plan (delegating responsibilities and agreeing on a brand voice, for example) and realistic expectations (“The amount of labor and human touch involved are daunting for traditional media business,” said Spark Capital general partner Dennis Miller.) is key to ROI.
“Distribution is becoming more and more social,” said Jonathan Miller. “Messages get out there really fast and can catch fire.” While fear of losing control of a brand's image is a concern for many publishers, another consistent message was to let go of the reins and allow users to interact with and contribute to a brand's social media presence.
"Release control of the conversation,” said Mindshare North America's Phill Cowdell. This engagement is key to turning an audience member into an advocate.
Social sees all
In fact, many social media thought leaders stressed the importance of not treating social media as a single component of brand building. “It's less about a channel, but more about the fabric of our campaigns,” said Unilever's North American media director Rob Master. Jordan Bitterman, SVP of media and content for Digitas, agreed: “Look at social media as part and parcel of all your communications woven into the fabric. [Twitter] isn't an element that can be extracted.” It's about integrating it into a marketing plan.
Deborah Schultz, innovation practice partner at The Altimeter Group, suggested creative thinking: Facebook suggests people you may know; companies might consider suggesting “friends” who also like their brands. “[The point is to] bring me closer to you,” Schultz said.
Social media killing socialization?
And for those publishers who can't stomach the Twitter trend, Cowdell reminded media companies that “the way we execute [connecting with an audience] may be faddish, but people are social.”
Ironically, as OMMA Global attendees tweeted and Facebooked the best nuggets from industry thought leaders, there was noticeably less face-to-face interaction throughout the event—perhaps a telling indication of the future of both media and society itself.
Key points to a successful social media presence, gathered from speakers throughout the event, included the following:
- Always be truthful. “Google's the long tail of lies,” said Schultz.
- Never sell first. Add value before anything else.
- After creating value, communicate that value to an audience.
- Consider brand voice but don't try to control the conversation—listen instead.
- Convert audience members into brand advocates by respecting their contribution to the conversation.
- Social media is not just a marketing channel. “It's the grease that drives our lives,” according to Schultz.
- While traditional media is like real estate (it charges to let people on its property), social media is like religion, according to GCA Savvian Advisors managing director Terence Kawaja. “You don't know if it's working; you just have to believe.”
- Social media is already mobile. “If you figure out a social media presence, you have a head start on your mobile presence,” said Kawaja.