But while Marketing Departments may have controlled the first iteration or two of their companies' web sites, that time has now passed. Today, the Marketing Department has responsibility for driving traffic to the site and may control the corporate website's look and feel, but it is very unlikely (if your company is of a certain size) to own the content, the business functionality or the underlying technologies such as web content management, search, hosting, web analytics and the like. In other words, today Marketing brings its traditional strengths and capabilities in reach, scale and acquisition to the web, while other parts of the organization bring their own strengths.
Who controls the social media efforts at your organization?" and over half the respondents noted their Marketing Department is responsible for social media. No other answer even came close--Public Relations was second with just 18% of the responses.
But in 2014, it is time for change. In the same way Marketing ceded control of corporate websites as the rest of the organization matured digitally, it is now time for Marketing to leave most aspects of social and earned media to others in the organization. That means that primary responsibility for social accounts, daily posting and organic content must shift out of marketing and to other departments, if this has not already occurred.
There are three reasons why this shift is occurring and will continue to do so in 2014:
Reason One: It Is Increasingly Difficult for Earned Media to Furnish the Reach Marketing NeedsEarned media, that golden promise of the social era, is dying. You don't even need to examine data to know this--just look at the wave of whiny blog posts we have seen this year from marketers accusing Facebook of breaking promises. Apparently, marketers thought Facebook was going to be a place where basic consumer behavior changed: As more brands joined social media and increased their content marketing output, consumers who avoid ads in every other medium would suddenly welcome and engage with marketing content on Facebook.
Of course, that isn't what happened--people sign into Facebook and other social networks to see what friends, family and peers are up to, not to get marketing content. On Facebook, as more brands paid for access to users' news feeds, it was absolutely inevitable that brands would find it increasingly difficult to "earn" their way into fans' news feeds organically. (And if you think I am demonstrating 20/20 hindsight, feel free to read my blog post from almost two years ago, "Did Facebook Just Kill Earned Media?")
|Ignite studied 689 posts across 21 brands; only one |
brand saw an increase in organic reach.
And if you think the earned media bloodletting is over, think again. The slow decline of earned media on Facebook will continue in 2014. Ad Age recently reported that Facebook is telling marketers, "We expect organic distribution of an individual page's posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site."
Make no mistake, the phenomenon of shrinking earned media is not just a Facebook issue. Facebook is on the cutting edge of social media because of its scale and longevity (not to mention investor expectations, with a market cap almost 50% greater than Twitter's, LinkedIn's and Yahoo's combined), so it provides a peek into the future of all social media. As more brands pay for access and as social networks strive to monetize, brands' earned media will get pushed aside.
Earned media is dead; long live paid media! Marketers should not mourn the loss of earned media but rejoice that their traditional skills and abilities are in ever higher demand. The need for paid media expertise in social media has never been higher and is going to continue growing. The Marketing Department is uniquely equipped to stay abreast of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks' rapidly evolving ad programs, develop and test targets and creative, and measure advertising success. Marketing can focus on what it does best and leave the rest of social media to others.
Exception to the rule: While it is ever more difficult to gain access to consumers via earned media, this is not a universal problem for all categories. Entertainment, news and style brands continue to have opportunities to increase reach and engagement both in traditional social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as the newer breed of visual platforms such as Vine, Instagram, Pinterest and perhaps, if they can prove themselves to marketers, Snapchat and Whatsapp. Most other categories simply do not have the luxury of innate consumer interest, and trying to manufacture it where little exists only pushes brands to, well, let's move on to reason number two...
Reason Two: The Harder Marketers Try To Win Earned Media, the Greater the Risks
|You're getting a little choked up with the|
emotion of this respectful post, aren't you?
Spaghettios apologized and said its intent was to pay respect, but you and I both know that is not true. This was marketing content, and the goal in posting it was to achieve what marketers always want to achieve in social media--likes, comments and shares. The intent of the smiling cartoon Spaghettio was not to pay respect but to create brand engagement (and in that, at least, the brand succeeded).
Of course, I should not pick on the Campbell Soup brand when there is an almost limitless number of examples of social marketing missteps to choose from in 2013: The #AskJPM, #AskBG and #AskRKelly hashtag dustups; endless look-alike newsjacking after the royal baby's birth; embarrassing campaigns to extort retweets in exchange for charitable dollars; failure to control social accounts from dismissed employees; pathetic fake account hacks to jack up follower counts; branded hashtags inserted into tweets about tragedies; accidentally racist posts; misguided humor about fatal airport crashes. Was that enough, or should I go on?
|Cole defended his tweet as a way to "provoke a dialogue." |
How far is your brand willing to push to get attention?
In 2014, we will see still more brand blunders in social media, but there is a simple solution: Stop trying so hard! With shrinking opportunities to reach the kind of mass scale marketers want and need, consider the risks versus the potential modest rewards. If you do, many of you will shut off the lights on those special-event real-time marketing newsrooms--your brand is more likely to be criticized for spamming consumers' conversations than be next year's Oreo Blackout. Put an end to those tweet-this-or-we-won't-save-a-starving-child campaigns, which consumers increasingly see as mercenary attempts to boost brand reach. Stop desperately asking people to "like this if you love Fridays." Tactics like those may deliver some bumps in your social media analytics, but they are more likely to create negative sentiment than to boost consideration, purchase intent or loyalty at any reasonable scale.
Note that I said to stop trying so hard, not stop trying altogether. Brands certainly have a place in social media, but the time has come to focus not on what your marketing department wants but on what your customers want: Deals, information, education, customer service, co-creation and social functionality. In this list, the Marketing Department is best aligned to furnish just one type of content--promotions. The remainder of the content and services are better left to Public Relations, Customer Care, Product Management and Development and Channel Management.
The Marketing Department is an important provider of content for social channels, but that does not mean those social channels should be run by Marketing with the goal of producing marketing results. In the coming year, I anticipate we will see more Public Relations and Customer Care departments take over companies' social accounts. This will decrease the chances for the kind of social missteps that embarrass brands. No PR or customer service department will ever post an image of a smiling Spaghettio waving a flag, newsjack a national event or fake an account hack. Those departments do not need to win a battle for hundreds of thousands of eyeballs in order to succeed, and they will not push the envelope until, inevitably, the envelope tears and creates a social PR mess.
Reason Three: There is Little Evidence that Social Media Marketing Success Drives Business SuccessNo matter what your corporate social media scorecard may imply, all engagement is not created equal. Getting consumers to engage with your jokey posts or videos is not the same as making a brand impression, building purchase intent or driving sales. Too many brands continue to chase social media metrics while failing to measure how and if social media efforts drive business results. For every Dove "Real Beauty" or Secret "Let Her Jump" that delivers measurable marketing results, there are dozens of other social campaigns that fall far short.
Ship My Pants" (20 million views!), "Big Gas Savings" (6 million views!), "Show Your Joe" (16 million views!) and the new "Ship My Trowsers" (3 million views in a week!) Even though Kmart, which is owned by Sears, amassed twice as many views as top-rated primetime program NCIS has viewers, the retailer has continued its slow decline, with same-store sales falling 2.1% in the second quarter and an equal amount in the third quarter. As Mashable's Todd Wasserman notes, "It's hard to make a case that the ads did much for owner Sears's bottom line."
In the article on Mashable, Sears chief digital marketing officer says he judges success by "the amount of engagements in social media surrounding the brand." It is long past time for digital and social media leaders to stop this kind of idiotic babble. Marketing that entertains or engages without driving measurable brand or business benefits is failed marketing. Television ad buyers don't claim success based on gross rating points, and neither should digital and social marketers claim success can be counted in "likes" rather than dollars, new customers or brand equity (such as awareness and purchase intent).
YouTube video earned 35 million views and got everyone talking. Two months ago, uberVU evaluated Red Bull's and Monster's social media presence and declared Red Bull the winner. But while Red Bull may be winning the social media battle, it is losing the market share war. In recent years, Red Bull has been slowly bleeding market share to Monster, and the trend continued in 2013. In Monster's third quarter earnings call, CEO Rodney Sacks announced that Monster's year-over-year growth was greater than Red Bull's and that Monster was close to overtaking Red Bull in US market share.
Two of the biggest social media marketing successes of the past fourteen months seem to be driving no demonstrable brand success. Maybe my Kmart and Red Bull examples seem unfair since, of course, social media is but one small factor in overall brand success or failure. After all, customers disappointed with past Kmart experiences won't be enticed into stores with a funny video, and Red Bull may be leaking market share because competitors have better product innovation. If you buy this line of reasoning, then you are acknowledging my point--entertaining consumers with funny videos and knee-slapping posts do little to impact the bottom line when consumer perception of the brand is shaped by more powerful experiences with the product or service.
I see little evidence that entertaining consumers with social content imparts benefits to brands. Consumers are awash in entertainment options, and your brand cannot compete with the likes of Beyonce, PewDiePie, Cinema Sins, Rihanna or Reddit. Those channels and pages, and thousands of entertainment options like them, are unencumbered by the limitations faced by your brand, such as reputation considerations, brand fit, legal and regulatory concerns and, most of all, the need to drive purchase of goods and services. (Yes, Rihanna and Beyonce want you to buy their music, but in that case their entertainment is their product, while your brand is left producing diverting videos in the wild hope they will drive folks to purchase pistachios or bottled water.)
Exception to the rule: While big, established brands show little sign of being able to alter brand behavior with tweets and YouTube videos, small and unknown brands and individuals still have opportunities to leverage earned media to gain attention and achieve success. From Blendtec to Justin Bieber to GoldieBlox, upstart brands have demonstrated that the right content can build awareness and change minds.
Where does this leave Marketing and Earned Media?
The time is right for a reassessment of your brands' cost-benefit equation with respect to marketing content in social media. If you are achieving significant organic scale and positive outcomes for a reasonable cost, keep up the good work. But if you are employing writers, videographers, photographers, illustrators and other creatives to develop social media content that is reaching too few customers and fails to deliver measureable results, then a change is in order.
There is no shame in acknowledging that earned media does not offer the marketing opportunities that we hoped for years ago as social media was developing. There is, however, shame in continuing to invest if the strategy is not producing results or in striving so hard for marketing success that the company is embarrassed with a social media misfire.
In 2014, I believe the time has come for a normalization of roles in social media. Your organization has professionals with decades of experience creating earned media, and they are not in Marketing but PR. Your organization also has professionals able to scale one-to-one relationships, answer customer questions and engage consumers individually, and they are found in Customer Care. These are the departments that can better manage corporate social accounts. More importantly, they can measure success on their own terms, with metrics based on responsiveness, reputation and satisfaction rather than on acquisition and sales.
The shift has already happened at many companies, but if the Marketing Department at your firm still "owns" the corporate social media accounts, it may be time for them to hand over the keys. Moreover, if your marketing function is ramping up a content marketing program at the same time earned media opportunities are vanishing, caution and careful consideration of costs and goals is advised. Marketing will always have a role on social networks, but the time has come to recognize that social media is not primarily a marketing channel but is better aligned to the longstanding responsibilities and capabilities of others throughout the organization.