Leap of Faith? Boardrooms and C-Suite Still Skeptical of Social Media’s Value.

The Guardian reports results of a recent poll of global senior marketers that found only half of all boardrooms are convinced about social media’s value.

Why? It’s hard to see the value of social if you are not there yourself. According to another survey 64% of CEOs do not use social media at all, with only 5% of all Fortune 500 company CEOs on Twitter. So many marketers, advertising and PR pros are running into road blocks with their social pitches when they reach the executive level.

But those executives said they would use social media more if it were helpful to their business (90%) and if they better understood the benefits (60%). In other words, not understanding the  return on investment (ROI)  is a main barrier to social media adoption in the boardroom.

However, it may useful to put ROI into the context of other marketing communications with which executives are already comfortable. I can see this ROI question from the perspective of advertising. As an advertising agency, even when we ran TV ads for a client, unless it was a direct response commercial (think infomercial) we couldn’t directly prove ROI.

For example, we would run commercials for a fast food client to generate awareness. Sales of their sandwiches either went up or they went down. Perhaps it was the commercial but there are many other factors that could have caused it. What we did know is reach – how many eyeballs we bought based on TV ratings.

Today we may have a Facebook page and post pictures of the sandwiches. Showing up in the news feed of consumers generates awareness. Reach in social can be measured by number of fans, shares, etc. passing the branded sandwich pictures on further. But if some see the post, get hungry and go to the restaurant to buy the sandwich we still don’t have a direct measure of ROI.

I think there is a higher standard of ROI in digital because we have been told and sold on “everything” being measurable online. Yet this simply is not true and we forget that many of the traditional marketing we take for granted doesn’t have a direct line of ROI either.

Marketers and the C-Suite and boardrooms make leaps of faith with traditional advertising all the time. How many millions of dollars were spent by Fortune 500s for 30 seconds during the Super Bowl last year? I think it is just harder with social media because it is so new. That said, there is a lot that is provable like the data in the graph below that shows social media drives more leads than traditional advertising.

Again, It might simply come down to the C-Suite’s lack of personal involvement. It’s easier to understand the influence of a TV commercial on purchase decisions when you watch TV, but harder to see how Facebook could influence a purchase decision when you don’t use it yourself. The bottom line is social media marketing works not because executives are using it, but because the customer is using it.

So in addition to social media strategist, we must also be social media educators. Our job is to help executives understand that the rest of the world is embracing social media to make purchase decisions with consumer products and in business-to-business.

As John Andrews of Collective Bias says, “Recent studies have shown that more consumers are relying on social media to help determine what products to buy. They are using social to research, find inspiration, search for coupons, read reviews, etc. Connecting with potential customers via channels they use and trust most, allows brands to find out pertinent information about their target audience as well as themselves.”

Let’s all start building a case for social media marketing acceptance. How do you combat C-Suite Skepticism of social media?

Before You Pronounce Traditional Advertising Dead Check For Its Social Media Pulse.

People love to pronounce things dead. In fact, the phrase “is dead” returns over 226 million Google search results. However, most media and marketing that has been pronounced dead, doesn’t actually die, it just changes into something else. Radio was pronounced dead when TV came along. Instead radio became a valuable local and promotional medium. I still have the cover of WIRED magazine hanging in my office that pronounced Apple computer dead in the 1990’s.

Many have pronounced traditional advertising dead as digital and social media have increased in usage and influence. In 2013 a Harvard Business Review article said, “Traditional marketing — including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications — is dead. Many people in traditional marketing roles and organizations may not realize they’re operating within a dead paradigm. But they are. The evidence is clear.” The author’s evidence? More people find information about products/services on their own through the internet and social media. CMO’s lack credibility and can’t prove business growth. It doesn’t make sense to hire 3rd parties to try and sell your products for you. (I have paraphrased Bill Lee, please check out his arguments yourself).

From the evidence I gathered I see a different story. Instead of death, social media seems to be giving traditional advertising new life and this new life is growing evidence for the importance of integration of marketing methods. Instead of replacing the old, we should be including it. Even in my Social Media Marketing class focused on social media, I make it clear that it should never exist on its own. It is not a replacement for traditional marketing, but should be integrated into traditional efforts. But perhaps I am biased because I received my masters degree in IMC (Integrated Marketing Communication) so lets look at the numbers and you can decide for yourself.

According to Ipsos research released in 2013, the number one way to create awareness around new brands and products is still with TV ads followed by friends and family and then the Internet. Nearly a third of consumers also turn to magazine ads (31%), social networking sites (25%), entertainment (TV shows/movies; 22%) and direct mail (21%). Even in the younger 18-34 group, the Internet becomes the primary source of discovery (59%), but TV is still third (48%).

Nielson data reports surveys of online consumers indicating the more influential forms of advertising (ones they always or sometimes take action on). People I know and opinions posted online are number one (84%) and two (70%), TV comes in at third (68%). Ads in newspapers are still number five (65%), magazine ads are eighth (62%) and billboards are just out of the top ten (57%). These charts say “integration” to me, not “death.”

Brands that are integrating are seeing better results. Deloitte research reports Some 86% of US consumers (aged 14+) claim to always or almost always multitask while watching TV. Almost half of Millennials this year say they use a social network while watching TV. The brands that know this are acting on it and benefiting from integration. For example, combined print advertising with online has been shown to increase intention to take action by 85%. And combined use of Twitter has also delivered greater results for traditional TV by increasing awareness, favorability and intent.

I am still a social media fan and highly suggest that all brands need to jump into social media marketing. But in your enthusiasm for the new, don’t leave behind the old. Traditional advertising is still alive and kicking and gets a boost from social media marketing. The best marketing efforts combine both in IMC fashion. Do you agree or do you see a flat line for traditional?

 

Social Media: A Post-Control World

One of the main things I have learned working through the digital and now social media revolutions is that the truth, transparency and power of social media requires a fundamental shift in thinking for the marketing, advertising and PR profession.

If we truly want to control brand communication today, we must be willing to give up control. Not an easy thing for human nature and professional disciplines that are taught and practiced in the very opposite manner. Pick up any Principles of Marketing, Advertising or Public Relations text and you will find the same – methods, strategies, and processes all designed to control the message.

Even with the advancement of the new discipline of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) all brand communication is attempted to be controlled an put into one unifying message across consumer touchpoints to combat advertising clutter and loss of mass media audience.

Maybe that is why so many marketers continue to shift resources to social media, yet admit they don’t know how to integrate social into their traditional efforts. But the consumer revolution is happening and consumers now have the influence of mass audience. When word of mouth gets super charged with social media, perhaps traditional is no longer an appropriate base from which to start.

As Seth Godin says, “Your consumers are talking about you whether you like it or not.”

Perhaps we are all looking at this from the wrong perspective. We shouldn’t be figuring out how to compartmentalize social media as a nice little addition to our current marketing efforts. Social is much bigger than that. Instead we should begin with social media and figure out ways we can integrate the consumer’s voice across the discipline silos of advertising, PR, and Digital and across the business unit silos of marketing, operations, R&D, customer service, etc.

Whether we like it or not we now live in a Post-Control Marketing world, a post Four P’s (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) where our brands are no longer our own. Today we need to build brands around the consumer and the Four C’s of Consumer, Costs, Convenience, and Communication. This may seem like a small difference but as Carol Dweck has taught us, Mindset can make all the difference in the world.

A funny thing happens when you give up control, your product and service becomes better. Your customers help you create the products they want, the communications they’re interested in, freely share your brand messages and help you improve your service. Everyone gets more of what they want. The consumer is no longer a target to be conquered, but a business partner for mutual benefit. And in the end you meet and exceed the marketing and business objectives you wanted in the first place.

Are you ready for Post-Control Marketing? Do you know how to integrate social media for the consumer revolution?