Social media and digital marketing is everywhere. Any brand attempting to promote, engage, and connect with their target audience in today’s day and age is using social media to market to their constituents. While only 10 years old, social media has become a catalyst in restoring the one to one relationship between brands and consumers.
In its 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, Social Media Examiner, a leader in the space, has provided invaluable insight as to how brands and individuals are using social media for marketing purposes.
Interestingly, the most important question (“What is the ROI of social media?”)remains to be answered in a concrete manner. Does that mean that social media will disappear? Probably not. What this report does seem to document is that, with the initial trend of social media integration behind us, companies and brands are now transitioning to a point requiring a more transparent and clearer reporting for concrete results of social media marketing.
After reviewing Top Rank’s analysis of the report, which enumerates five major benefits of social media on business, there are some additional findings which warrant discussion and should be raised for longer term consideration.
The Role of Video Marketing
While nearly 60% of marketers already utilize video in their marketing efforts, 72% indicated that video marketing is part of their short term goals to integrate into their digital strategy. Especially with recent changes on Facebook, video marketing is clearly an important channel for content creation and marketing.
In fact, in the study, learning to create videos is the number one area that marketers wish to increase their knowledge and expertise.
Growth of Podcasting in Digital Mix
To date, only 10% of marketers are using podcasting as a tool to create content and engage with an audience.
Like video, podcasting requires a significant investment in resources to produce a final product. While Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Instagram represent platforms on which content can be automated or quickly shared, podcasting can only be distributed after the raw content has been edited and modified for optimal brand promotion. Unlike blog content, which can be edited in real time, the time and energy involved prior to distributing podcast content, dissuades many marketing teams from integrating this form of content.
Interestingly, the small group of marketers using podcasting praise its value and high engagement rates since the content is automatically pushed and syndicated to a user’s phone or desktop via a platform like Itunes. While content on a blog can be sent via email, the simplicity of podcast syndication and ability to listen at one’s leisure signifies a user controlled experience with which other forms of content are unable to compete.
The Secondary Benefits of Social Media Marketing
The report does indicate that those marketers involved in social media for over two years are actually seeing sales from the relationships and communities that they’ve established. To date, the secondary benefits (branding, exposure, partnerships, lead gen, cost savings, search rankings) outweigh the direct impact of social media on business revenue.
An intriguing development in the secondary benefits of social media is the ability for content writing and social conversation to enable a brand or personality to position themselves as thought leaders within an industry.
In today’s digital space, these secondary benefits are indeed significant, within the context of a brand’s ability to solidify the opportunities into concrete sales. Briefly stated, search ranking, for example, does help a brand gain advantage over its competitors on search engines. If, however, the user is directed to a site that is not optimized for conversion or otherwise confusing, the benefit of search engine optimization has proven to be insignificant.
Measuring the ROI of Social Media
One of the most significant results that emerged from the study is that only 42% of marketers can actually measure the direct result of their marketing efforts. While the number does show 5% increase from 2014, and 16% increase from 2013, the results still do raise questions in terms of return on investment.
Many of the marketers claiming this challenge are ill-equipped with the necessary reporting tools or do not invest the necessary time on social media as the primary factors in their inability to show direct ROI.
What are some of the most effective social media platforms?
An important aspect of the report was a list of the top seven social media platforms being used by marketers. In order of usage- Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram. Instagram did increase its position by 8% and, despite the common notion that Google+ is becoming more insignificant, the social media platform increased by 2% since 2014.
An important distinction made in the report is the social media platforms used by B2B vs B2C marketers. B2C marketers focus on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram. These four are highly visual based platforms that resonate with consumers looking for visually appealing content prior to making purchase decisions.
For B2B marketers, the focus shifts to Linkedin, Twitter, Google+ and Slideshare. The reason for this differential is that B2B marketing efforts focus on establishing relationships, industry related content and understanding the employee within the context of his or her professional role.
As marketers prepare for future social media efforts, both B2B and B2C efforts are shifting their efforts to increase usage on Twitter, learning to leverage video marketing and integrating Instagram into their overall digital strategy. Again, while many individuals in the social media sphere shy away from Google+, the report indicates that 78% of marketers plan to maintain or increase their activities on this platform.
With regards to newer social media platforms including Snapchat, the report indicates a low rate of interest of marketers to integrate Snapchat or other new social platforms into their overall marketing efforts.
In terms of Snapchat, the reasons could be lack of interest, lack of familiarity with usability or associating Snapchat with an audience incongruent with their target audience. For other new platforms, marketers could be showing a sense of complacency to constantly learn and integrate new platforms or they could be more interested in proving value in the core, more commonly accepted, platforms before venturing into new ones.
For those marketers who are comfortable with being early adopters in new platforms or are willing to risk venturing into new territories, these platforms do indeed present significant opportunities.
Like Top Rank, I agree that a very important result from the 2015 Social Media Examiner report is the ability of marketers to quantify specific objectives and show results that meet these goals. With this report, an important question that remains unanswered in the social media marketing sphere is which benefits play a more significant role direct or indirect sales benefits?
This post was originally published on noholtzbarred blog