'Marketers must spend more seriously on social'

Marketers have been warned to take their social media activity more seriously and enforce higher standards of planning, strategy and evaluation into campaigns on sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to boost their effectiveness.

Warc Market Sectors Social

Source: Case studies on Warc, October 2008 - December 2012

Marketing information company Warc’s “Seriously Social - a casebook of effectiveness trends in social media campaigns” report found of 800 award-winning marketing case studies from 2012, cases including social media activity were shorter in duration, involved lower budgets and were less likely to cite a quantified business impact.

The report says: “Many brands still view social initiatives as short-term and experimental…social media might not be the right choice for every context, but in order for marketers to extract more value from their investments in this field, it is time for social media to be taken more seriously.”

Overall, cases with a social media element accounted for more than 55 per cent of the 800 case studies in the sample, but only 51 per cent won the top industry awards such as the Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions, IPA Effectiveness Awards and the DMA UK Awards.

Of the sample studied, those that included social media elements were most often (44 per cent) found in the lowest media budget category of $500,000 or under, but only 28 per cent of those were gold award-winning.

Warc Top 15 Social Brands

The authors of the report urge marketers to adopt a “social mindset”, prioritising the creation of content that consumers need or want to share with a clear brand idea - such as P&G’s Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like Responds to the Internet” campaign. Including key “social media currency” staples such as breaking taboos, unusual use of celebrities and calls to participe are also likely to lift the virality of campaigns, the report says.

The report urges marketers to move away from treating social media like a project and demand standards of proof from their agencies or insight teams to prove the commercial effectiveness of campaigns - rather than relying on metrics such as impressions or “largely unproven assumptions” about the value of likes and tweets - in order to drive up budgets and duration.

Warc advises: “Identify the single most pressing ROI question about social media within your organisation. Consider diverting resource from a planned campaign element into a research study to tackle this. In addition to providing valuable research, the study may help you to win over peers who are skeptical about your social initiatives.”

Of all the brands featured in the analysis, Unilever was found to be the “most social” - with 46 award-winning case studies with a social element. Its closest rival in the list was also one of its closest business rivals P&G, which had 31 winning case studies (see above-right).

Warc has indexed all case studies on its service according to the type of media channels used. Since 2009, the annual proportion of case studies on Warc that use social media has tripled. Of all the business sectors indexed by the analysis, the public sector had the highest proportion of social media campaigns and utilities the fewest.

Readers' comments (6)

  • I totally agree.... it should be used as an ongoing customer engagement tool. If you're not on social media networks, that doesn't mean that people aren't talking about your brand, it just means that you can't see what they're saying and can't respond. It definitely needs its own strategy as part of an ongoing content plan, and overall marketing plan. Good article.

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  • The challenge for marketers is that the shift from tactical to strategic use of social media requires fundamental changes to their organisation's culture and structure. These changes inevitably take time and require cross-organisational collaboration - something that the marketing department often struggles to deliver. .

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  • I question the usefulness of a longitudinal graph showing social marketing data from 2008 - 2012.

    In 2008 Facebook wasn't the most popular social networking site on the web. Facebook Connect was invented during that year. Vanity URLs didn't show up until 2009. Sponsored stories didn't exist until 2010. Timeline came out in 2012.

    There have been dozens of changes to brand pages, permissions, privacy settings, feed algorithms, and ads products since 2008.

    It's a useless graph.

    But yes, if you're going to spend on FB, you should plan meticulously and measure accordingly.

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  • It's glaringly obvious that social media has been the new kid on the block; the 'must do' or be seen as behind the times.

    This has lead to marketers ignoring one of the basic tenants of marketing; measure and evaluate the results.

    This doesn't mean don't get onboard with new opportunities to connect with consumers. Quite the opposite.

    It just means be clear about your objectives, and make sure you measure

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  • It certainly is the ‘must do’ of the times but I've come across many companies through our social media surveys as well as clients who are simply on-board with social media just for the sake of it. To be on Facebook and Twitter isn't for everyone and so its use must be approached with a clear and precise strategy separate from other channels.

    If you are going to utilise social media then do it for the right reasons.

    The current dynamic of social media platforms make it difficult to analyse the full potential in terms of intrinsic benefits so don’t use them to generate revenue. What they are incredibly good at is connecting like-minded consumers together to what they’re interested in. Providing valuable content and interaction is the key to drive your social media strategy and should be initiated accordingly.

    Having clear objectives and accurate planning will allow you to maximise these strategic benefits creating a stable base for your company to grow.

    If you’re not sure about what strategy to take then seek advice as mistakes are easily made and long-lived.

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  • I agree Rachel, social media should be an ongoing customer engagement tool that is integrated into an overall content marketing strategy.

    Creating a community and building a rapport with customers is important and social media breaks down that barrier; demonstrating you are approachable.

    It is then the case of interweaving social media into your marketing campaigns to support your objectives and measure results effectively.

    It takes a shift in an organisation's culture for it to truly become a social business but accepting social media as a comms channel and taking it seriously as part of your marketing efforts is a good step forward!

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