Still Time to Catch Up in Social

No one likes to hear they are out of time.

Unfortunately, time is running out for businesses that haven’t fully integrated social media into their communications mix.

Businesses are in grave danger of not only becoming laggards, but also getting lapped on the next generation of media technologies. Some companies have been experimenting with forms of social media for the better part of a decade now.

Today, technology firms are building new tools with sensors, location data and mobile networks access that are empowering incredible one-to-one communications. These contextual outreach tools come in several forms, from marketing automation to mobile apps and location-based marketing programs.

Major brands like adidas and CARFAX are using next generation solutions to increase sales, strengthen brand loyalty, and reduce operation expenses. Meanwhile their competitors continue to waffle, broadcasting messages with tweets and Facebook messages, failing to build online communities.

You can see that even the social network broadcasters, while flailing, have at least made a worst case scenario entry into the media form. Many claim that social does not deliver ROI, and in return those that follow can claim the businesses who don’t engage fail to offer anything of interest. Yet they have a toehold, a minimal entry from which to begin should they choose to invest in larger engagement or custom content for their stakeholders.

Social media is tough for brands because it requires a deft personal touch that contradicts the way marketing worked in the industrial era of business. It was called mass communications for a reason.

Fractured media began occurring in the form of blogs and social networks at the turn of the century. As the first decade closed the web 2.0 revolution had come and gone, and mass communication properties were weakened, or worse were going out of business. Social media offered people something a little more personal and unique to their interest levels, plus they could talk with like-minded individuals.

Now with contextual media, brands and willing customers can finally engage in one-to-one or one-to-a few communications. Let’s not kid ourselves. For any company of significant size and scale this takes work.

Contextual marketing is a different type of strategy that heavily relies on data and algorithms to build microniches. It does require human guidance. Managing a database intelligently and creating the right content and deals for a micro niche audience requires a deft touch that in many ways is the exact opposite of mass communications.

The good news is that these new marketing technologies are imperfect at best, and in some cases, are in their earliest phases of development. There is still time to catch up in social media. Some brand might even leapfrog social.

What do you think? Has time run out for brands to get their social acts together?

Image by Driek.

6 thoughts on “Still Time to Catch Up in Social

  1. Even though some brands may have been playing in social for close to a decade, I think there is still ample time for other brands to catch up. They will need to be innovative, and they will need to develop a willingness to take risks in regards to making their brand more accessible and vulnerable (through transparency).

    Besides so many executives not believing in the ROI of social engagement, they also worry about the risks they take on through social engagement. Some consumers will hold their brand accountable for a good customer experience…others will hold their brand reputation HOSTAGE as they try to take unfair advantage of social channels to get more perks.

    But brands better get their heads out of the sand and become socially engaged, or the social-savvy consumers will simply move on to the brands that DO engage.

    I still think a good argument to get brands over the hump is to invest in social monitoring. See what customers are ALREADY saying about their brand and competitors in the industry. Then see if that intelligence helps them make better decisions regarding where they spend their marketing dollars and how quickly they respond to customer feedback. See if that builds natural advocacy, customer retention, and slow-but-steady increases in their bottom line while reducing overall marketing expenses.

    • I think the whole ROI conversation reminds me of teenage boys looking to score. CEOs miss the relationship, and only want the end, the whole time losing site of everything that matters. And the CEOs afraid to engage because of what the customers may do, well, perhaps they shouldn’t be in business, because that’s life. You have to relate to build things worth spending time and money on.

      Totally agree on the monitoring front. It’s an obvious solution that makes time worthwhile. I have some more thoughts on this that I will be catering to soon. Thank you for the comment, Brian!

        • Agreed. So long as there’s time for businesses to wake up to the fact that engagement means two-way communication in an almost quid pro quo environment, there will be time to catch up.

          Unti we see more customers building brand-oriented communities than brands themselves, it’s clear that the vast majority of brands aren’t remotely interested in feedback.

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  3. Good article, Geoff. There is time.

    The fact is that the bar is going up, and so just participating in social media is not enough anymore. I also believe that more companies will realize that it’s a combination, not a separation of skills that make a real difference. When I met with one small company last year, they had a marketing department working on “traditional marketing” and a separate new person working on “social.” Not only did that not make sense, but social is pervasive. it’s not just marketing…

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