Less Than 30% of Companies Have Social Media Focused Employees

Social Media Professional?

In a study done by Ragan Communications and NASDAQ OMX, via Mashable, in which they’ve polled over 2,700 social media professionals, only 27% of companies have employees who focus exclusively to social media tasks. However, 65% of companies stated that social media was on top of other priorities and responsibilities. The survey also found that social media budgets have remained flat in 2012, and that it’s unlikely to increase in 2013. Along with those stats, 70% of the respondents were either dissatisfied or only “somewhat satisfied” with how they measure their social media efforts. Yikes.

What do you guys think this means? Let me know in the comment section. Are companies making the wrong move by not hiring enough social media professionals? Or do we even need specific employees for this task? And do we really need just “social media professionals?”

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Local Politician Devotes Half of Budget to Facebook Ads, Wins Election.

People who are looking for examples of Facebook’s potential power as a marketing platform should take note. According to Mashable, Michigan Supreme Court candidate Bridget Mary McCormack had been trailing in polls and her chances of winning the election seemed small. In a last ditch effort, and a week before Election Day, McCormack’s staff spent 51% of their budget on Facebook ads – up from the 20% they were spending earlier in the campaign. The online strategy worked, giving them the push they needed to take the election.

I find this to be incredibly interesting, considering the short amount of time that her campaign had to work with. Now I doubt that she won the election off of Facebook alone, a sentiment her campaign adviser expresses as well, but it doesn’t negate the fact that her social media campaign was clearly successful.

What do you guys think? Do you think Facebook ads are a worthwhile investment for political campaigns and businesses? Or do you guys think this might be a fluke?

Is Social Media Marketing Worth the Investment?

In my last post, I mentioned that social media didn’t play a huge part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday online sales. In fact, Twitter didn’t generate any sales referrals at all. When marketing platforms take that big of a break during one of the biggest shopping days of the year, people start to question the usefulness of social media marketing.

Todd Wasserman over at Mashable has an op-ed about social media marketing, concluding that most of it is a waste of time because most brands are focusing too much on garnering likes and fans and not on the actual promotion of their products or services. A Facebook like doesn’t guarantee a sale. A re-tweet doesn’t guarantee a customer. A Promoted Post on Facebook can cost you $3,000 to reach 1 million fans, and for a brand that seems a bit ridiculous to shell out for a post that could be easily ignored. On top of that, brands have to worry about the ever changing world of social media. There has yet to be a “standard” of social media, or a stable example of a social media network. Facebook and Twitter are just our newest toys of communication. MySpace, from 2005 to 2008, was the largest and most useful social media tool on the internet. Facebook has had that title for four years so far, and but no one knows for sure how long Facebook will actually be around. Investing thousands of dollars in an unstable market seems a little too risky, right?

Back in June, Reuters had reported that 34% of Facebook users were spending less time on the website; only about 20% stated that they were spending more time. On top of that, 80% of users stated that they’ve never bought a product or service as a result of ads or comments on Facebook. Mix that with Facebook’s loss in marketing capitalization and you have a very unstable, uncertain marketing platform.

But, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Mashable, via BIA/Kelsey, reported that social media ads is projected to have an annual growth rate of 19.2% over the next four years. The researchers are estimating that social advertising will become a $9.2 billion industry by 2016. Then there is the success story of Samsung Galaxy S3’s three week marketing campaign on Facebook, where they spent $10 million on ads and generated $129 million in sales. Whether or not the Facebook ads are entirely (or directly) responsible for the sales is unsure, but it’s still impressive.

So what’s going to happen with social media marketing? Social media is an unstable creature, sure. Networks will come and go, boom and bust. That doesn’t mean that social media itself is going to go away, and that doesn’t mean that social media marketing isn’t worth investing in. Whether or not Facebook or Twitter will be here in five or ten years is inconsequential for the grand scheme of social media marketing; as I stated earlier, they’re just the current toys to use to reach the consumer. The marketing vehicles will change, but you’re still driving a car. Another thing to keep in mind is that social media marketing isn’t about the direct relationship between a product and the consumer; it’s the relationship between the brand and the consumer. It’s why @TacoBell is a popular Twitter account; not because people love Meximelts, but because @TacoBell has done a successful job creating a relationship with its consumers by engaging in social media. The platforms will probably always change, but the strategies remain the same.

Social Media Didn’t Generate Much in Sales During Black Friday

Amazon shipping center

IBM has released new survey about online retail performance during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales bonanza, and it looks like social media marketing decided to skip the whole weekend. According to the results of the survey, networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube generated only 0.34% of online sales referrals during Black Friday. That’s a 35% decrease in sales compared to 2011’s figures. Cyber Monday’s figures were slightly better (if you’re an optimist): social networks only generated 0.41% in online sales.

Twitter fared far worse; the results showed that Twitter pulled in a whopping 0% of online sales referrals for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That should be unsurprising; as the survey results showed, while social media wasn’t used best for sales referrals, people turned most to social media to post how much they liked shopping online this year.

Mobile traffic, on the other hand, grew about 67%  on Black Friday. Many shoppers turned to their iPads this year for their shopping, which took close to 10% of all mobile online shopping traffic.

Check out IBM’s Holiday Benchmark report for more results on this recent weekend sales event. I can’t wait to see the results for Christmas Eve shopping.

Campbell Soup Tries to Advertise Soup to Millennials

Campbell’s new ad campaign for “Campbell’s Go Soups” has been making rounds across the internet, and the feedback has ranged from jeers to…well, jeers. Campbell’s new campaign focuses on marketing soup to the Millennial generation- or, people born from around 1984 to about 2000, although the numbers vary depending on who you ask. During this campaign, Campbell intends to shift its ad focus to the digital market, as well as physically re-brand the product itself. Instead of the boring old “soup cans” that our Baby Boomer parents used to use, Campbell is experimenting with the “soup pouches” like the one pictured above. Campbell is also rolling out a new Tumblr blog/website to promote its “Campbell’s Go Soups” products, as well as a Facebook page and a partnership with popular websites Buzzfeed, Spotify and Funny or Die to help reach out to Millennials.

What Campbell is doing to their soups reminds me of what Coca Cola did in the early nineties with “OK Soda.” “OK Soda” was very short lived, poorly received soft drink aggressively marketed towards Generation X. The ads leaned heavily into ironic, offbeat material in order to reach out to its target demographic and often times they resorted to negative publicity to give the drink an “edge” in its image. It was a colossal failure, being cancelled 7 months into its kickoff.

Is this the exact same scenario? Of course not. OK Soda’s campaign was in a pre-digital ad world, so Coca Cola didn’t have the chance to create a Facebook page devoted to it or to partner up with Spotify to create “Ok Soda-inspired” grunge-filled playlists. But the idea is the exact the same: appealing to and capturing a particular demographic by pandering to their (perceived) interests. The idea is to get the desired audience to see themselves in the product so that they can see themselves using the product. Advertising embeds personality and character into products, and the goal is for the consumer to either readily identify with the product or want to identify with the character within the product. For example, wearing shoes made by Gucci conveys an identity of luxury and wealth over wearing shoes made by K-Swiss, even though they’re both just shoes and they serve the exact same purpose. When buying a product, you are also buying into an identity; it’s a basic advertising principle.

OK Soda was appealing to Generation Xers by trying to become the embodiment of Generation X (based on various stereotypes.) However, a common complaint of the “OK Soda” ads were that they were too overt in its tactics to woo Generation X-ers, and that it might have been the campaigns undoing. This type of aggressive marketing may come off as disingenuous to consumers who would see the ad campaign as pandering to them to the point of mockery. In OK Soda’s case, it was their anti-advertising ad approach, believing that Gen Xers disliked brands and advertising, that might have led it to fizzle out. It also doesn’t help that Coca Cola didn’t focus their ads or time on the taste, but more of the “feeling” of the drink, which is just as ridiculous as it sounds.

In Campbell’s case, it could be these “hipster-inspired” soups that feature young women doing a “duck face” pose or shouting out the words “Holla” that will be seen as too overt in its message. Campbell making an effort to focus on digital advertising is great, and other companies who haven’t made the jump should take notes. However, attempting to market soups specifically for Millennials (or Gen Xers for that matter) seems like a poor attempt at making your product seem “hip” or “cool” to them. Instead of creating a product personality around a generation, make a personality all of its own that will stand the test of time. By all means, Campbell should keep its focus on social media for advertising. But ditch the design, Campbell’s Soup. You have a good idea, and the flavors sound great. But don’t do what Coca Cola did with OK Soda.

And for the love of the advertising gods, don’t tell consumers that you will just be focusing on “feeling.”

Will “Native Advertising” Change the Face of Digital Advertising?

Lately, advertising and marketing folks have been abuzz over what’s been called the “next biggest thing” for digital ad campaigns: “native advertising.” While some argue that it’s not entirely a new idea, blogs and advertisers have been hyping up this content-centric campaign as the newest shift for digital ads in the right direction. But what exactly is it? More importantly, is it really going to be a big deal? Lastly, will it change the face of advertising?

First, let’s answer the former question: what is “native advertising?” It’s been referred to as “branded content,” “sponsored content” and “content marketing,” but it’s all the same thing: digital advertising embedded into design. The idea is to have ad media built into the design of the website it’s advertising on, so the ad content and site’s content look one and the same. As Jason Del Rey of Ad Age wrote,

…the underlying thesis beneath them all is that web readers, viewers and social-network users are more likely to respond positively to marketing tactics that don’t look like advertising and instead take the form of the rest of the content on the website or platform. On Twitter, that means promoted accounts and tweets; on Facebook, sponsored stories. And on media properties, that amounts to written, video or image-rich posts that look a lot like the editorial content on the site and which would make proponents of church-and-state divides between advertising and editorial departments cringe.

This is a notable shift in advertising from the usual large display ads and loud banners on web pages that can be easily ignored. With this idea, ad content can be present without appearing to be obnoxious or disrupting the flow of its platform. Because of its potential, many websites and companies are jumping on the “native advertising” wave; sites such as Forbes, the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, Gawker,  and even The Atlantic have been pushing native content ads on their pages. For example, Gawker will run a “Sponsored Story” in the same feed as its regular posts. It blends in the platform and consumers will only know that it’s an ad is because it tells them, not because it’s easily apparent.

So, to answer the second question: yes, it certainly seems as though that social media users are going to experience a huge wave of native ads over the next few years. For example, Mashable is gearing up for a beta launch site redesign aimed at optimizing the site for native advertising and viewable ads. So let’s answer the third question: will it change the face of digital advertising? Yes. However, the biggest concern towards native advertising is that there isn’t much evidence of its success yet, and that there’s conflicting information on how the consumer feels about their advertising experience with native content.  According to a survey done by social and mobile ad firm MediaBrix, native ads aren’t impressing consumers.In the survey, online adults were asked how they felt about Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, Facebook’s Sponsored Stories, and native video ads. The results were surprising; 85% said that they felt negatively impacted by the video ads or that it did not change their perception of the brand. 62% said the same about Promoted Tweets, and 72% about Sponsored Stories. However, research done by Nielsen and Facebook found that social ads generate a 55% greater lift in ad recall than non-social ads, with the admission that individual cases may vary.

Another issue is that native ads cannot be scaled; they can’t be repeated or standardized across various platforms. The media has to be tailored and customized that particular platform, unlike traditional digital ads like banners that can be plastered across dozens of web pages. This problem of scaling leads to issues of price; producing ad content isn’t cheap, and to produce quality content across platforms is going to cost a fair amount of money. This is going to be the major problem for social platforms and brands looking expand on and succeed in content-centric marketing. Still, these setbacks don’t seem to stop the ad industry from believing in native advertising as the next biggest thing. It’s clear that native advertising is here to stay. Marketers, advertisers and start ups seem bent on pushing native ads, and there is no denying that there will be a huge shift for digital advertising.

Social Media Influences Holiday Gift Decisions

The holidays are here again, delivering that “gift giving” stress that’s burdened upon us. Whether it’s the office “Secret Santa” or just gift sharing between friends, many of us stress over what exactly to give the other person without seeming cheap. In a stroke of genius, many people are turning to social media, and not conventional advertising, to influence their buying decisions. Two surveys, from both the Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Gate, have shown that consumers are relying on social media for holiday gift ideas than TV, newspaper and advertising:

SFGate:

  • 90% of respondents said that following a brand on social media makes them either somewhat likely or very likely to consider the brand when planning their holiday shopping list.
  •     Nearly all respondents across all demographic categories replied they were either somewhat likely (61%) or very likely (36%) to turn to social media before buying something.
  •     32% of respondents said discovering new gift ideas is the most effective use of social media for holiday shopping. Only 7% said it was sharing product purchases.

The Sacramento Bee:

The survey, released today by ConsumerSearch.com, part of The About Group, examines how people plan to shop this holiday season, including what elements of social media inspire consumers.

Sixty-five percent of respondents said they rely on word-of-mouth, or brainstorm with friends on gifts for loved ones, while others (64 percent) look to stores and manufacturers to provide inspiration through advertisements, emails and store web sites. Similarly, 62 percent of respondents said they use social media sources, including user reviews, online wish lists, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

This is interesting, but very unsurprising. More and more, social media is becoming more immersed in our every day lives. Because of this these platforms make it incredibly easy to learn about the person you’re giving a gift to and what they might want. A new Facebook status update about Halo 4? A tweet about that new Kendrick Lamar album you want to buy? A Pinterest board filled with clothes from Express or Forever21? These platforms are revealing little pieces of ourselves every time we decide to take part in it; it would make sense that consumers will turn to this for ideas.