The Era of Social Media Marketing Sophistication

Social media marketing began with an almost altruistic approach. Many claimed it was about building relationships with customers, having one-on-one conversations and humanizing brands.

All of this remains true today, but the environment has matured. New tools and software have come about to help brands create content, mine conversation, integrate channels, curate influencers and optimize efforts in real-time.

We’ve increased the level of sophistication around social media marketing. This is great for the industry, particularly if we can be more sophisticated without sacrificing some of what made social media such a powerful way to reach consumers: increasing business transparency, serving customers online and delivering value to consumers outside of the products and services they purchase. It’s important we maintain those more ‘organic’ pillars of social media marketing while embracing the brand new world of social media marketing as serious business.

Social Media Marketing’s Become Serious Business

The growing level of sophistication has allowed social media to be more directly tied to business objectives with new forms of advertising and integration with business data points outside of social. Advertisers have taken notice and are increasing their ad spends, according to eMarketer, and platforms are doing everything they can to grow this behavior.

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Facebook has undergone a massive overhaul in how it delivers advertising. Advertisers can now target ads based on a Facebook user’s activity outside of Facebook by integrating loyalty card data. We can also retarget users on Facebook who have visited our website with relevant social ads. Facebook has allowed advertisers to take the data they already have outside of Facebook and integrate it into their Facebook ad campaigns merging customer data with social advertising.

Twitter recently launched keyword targeting, allowing advertisers to deliver messages based on the content of user tweets. This puts Twitter in the realm of intent-based advertising, similar to Google. Advertisers can deliver ads to people who show an interest in needing a product or service. Twitter also established a relationship with Starcom Mediavest Group that guarantees hundreds of millions of dollars invested in Twitter, while the media agency gets higher levels of access to Twitter products. Twitter’s working to become a media company, not just a social network.

Google started out as a search company, but has worked to build up the social layer over everything to, altruistically, deliver more relevant results to users and, more selfishly, collect more data from social signals around what people are sharing, creating and interested in. Social data is being leveraged to make search campaigns more effective and more targeted.

LinkedIn acquired Pulse, the social news reader, and this follows LinkedIn’s efforts, including launching LinkedIn Today, to become a business media company that people turn to day after day. They’re evolving to become a media company powered by social.

Tumblr just launched mobile ads. The move was reluctant given Tumblr’s initial and very public distaste for advertising. They are following the same path of Facebook and Twitter. Build a platform, establish a user base, bring in brands and then charge brands to get more out of the platform through advertising.

Those are just a few examples. Foursquare and Pinterest are both laying the groundwork for advertising on their platforms. The platforms are getting more mature as they go from being platforms to being businesses, and the approach marketers should take with these platforms is changing, becoming more sophisticated, targeted and measured.

A New Generation Could Change Everything

All of this could change. A new era of consumers, which are today’s teenagers, are less open to the popular social networks that are embracing advertising. They are more fickle in their social media behaviors and have no problem using multiple social platforms for different purposes.

This group could very well go against the grain and focus their time on social networks outside the realm of today’s most popular platforms. As those more niche platforms grow in popularity, they’ll find themselves in the same situation as Facebook and Twitter years ago. They’ll have a massive user base but no way to monetize them, and so the cycle continues.

While many advertisers are already reaching teens on more niche social platforms, a mass adoption of today’s teenager behavior would require an industry-wide change in approach.

Integrate Social Across Channels and Expertise

Social media marketing has evolved since the first days of the Facebook Page, and this is a good thing. It’s lead to a more focused, analytics-driven approach to social media marketing. This means social does not exist in the realm of a single expert or team.

Social media marketing requires marketers to integrate across all brand channels: paid (display, traditional media), owned (website, email database, etc.) and earned (influencer relationships, social networks, content creation, etc.). Every channel should feed and be fed by the other. Social platforms are integrating everything and becoming more sophisticated marketing channels. Integration is the only way to use these platforms to their fullest potential.