Bloomberg recently reported that Snapchat surpassed Twitter in daily active users. Kudos to Snapchat, which is only half as old as Twitter, but why do we keep comparing Snapchat to Twitter? Or to Instagram? The industry is desperate to neatly categorize Snapchat under social media, but I would argue that Snapchat is equal parts messaging app and social network, putting it in a class of its own.
Let's break it down:
Messaging apps are built on the premise of private conversation: 1 to 1 (yes, group chat exists, but it's contained). You send specific messages tailored to the individual recipient. See: WhatsApp, WeChat, Skype, Viber, LINE, Telegram, Kik. With the exception of Asia's sophisticated app hybrids, today's messaging apps are not intended for blanket broadcast messaging.
Traditional social networks are built on the premise of broadcasting: 1 to many. You build up a network of friends (and, in some cases, the general public) and you blanket spam them with your post. See: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest. While they accommodate private conversation (Facebook Messenger is its own rightful messaging app, Instagram's and Twitter's Direct Message, LinkedIn InMail), it is not their primary foundation.
Forrester has a long tradition of boomerangs— former employees who re-join the company—and I joined their ranks back in January. It’s been an incredibly busy first few months, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The quick re-immersion has meant that I’ve started to solidify my coverage area (social marketing primarily with a bit of overall marketing strategy sprinkled in), had some great collaborations with the rest of the social team (Erna, Jessie and Sam), and already have an updated piece of research to share.
We’ve just published our updated Vision report for the Social Marketing Playbook, Integrate Social Into Your Marketing RaDaR. With the near-ubiquity of social—both in consumers’ lives and marketers’ plans—it’s more important than ever to ensure that you have a strategic, measurable approach to social marketing. This updated report has new data and examples to help you make the most of social across the entire customer lifecycle, making the just-checking-the-box style of social planning as unnecessary as it is obsolete.
Instagram announced this week that it is joining Facebook and Twitter and ditching its clean chronological feed in favor of an algorithm-based personalized feed. No one is surprised given Instagram has inched closer and closer to Facebook since its 2012 acquisition.
What does this mean for users? Instagram's initial appeal was its simplicity: mobile only, pictures only, square size only, chronological order, and one-way friendship. In the last year, Instagram has abandoned those simple principles by introducing an inordinate number of ads, varying visual sizes, and auto-play video, seemingly resulting in a40% drop in interaction rate in 2015. The big social networks seem committed to complicating their feeds as their companies mature and financial expectations grow. For purists, replacing an elegant user experience with a bogged down interaction is a turnoff. My own Facebook and Twitter usage nosedived once their feeds became messy; Instagram, currently my #1 social app for time spent, is facing a similar fate.
Most CMOs today have to close gaps in data collection within and across marketing units, integrate the data to transform it into actionable insights, and foster a closer working relationship among these units to achieve the overarching business goals. Building a command center may be a distant priority.
However, I have argued that digital command centers are intelligent nerve centers that let brands quickly track digital moments and respond appropriately to manage their reputation, retarget display ads, drive new sales opportunities, and provide customer support. In effect, it’s a marketing organization’s digital gold mine. On a broader scale, this marketing capability will importantly feed into an entire firm’s system of insights.
Discussing with Asia Pacific marketers, I often hear that they struggle to find and recruit the right social marketing skills, including data analysts. While staffing is important insofar as tactics go, having a proper team structure to execute on these tactics is, in my view, even more crucial.
In fact, they can mitigate some of these HR challenges with a properly structured social team. My report on building a usable social team structure addresses how organizational models will evolve as social marketing matures. These models include the a) Hub, b) Hub and spoke and c) distributed hub and spoke.
The Hub, for example, is meant to help firms that are starting out on social marketing. This could be a firm that is beginning to get more serious about how social is used strategically to drive business outcomes, or one that operates in highly regulated industries like banking and finance. The centralized hub model puts all of the responsibility (and money) for social marketing in the hands of one small team. This model provides training wheels for marketers for social marketing — especially in learning how to coordinate or test social marketing campaigns in the early phases of social maturity. A centralized hub acts as an incubator for social marketing experimentation and allows other teams to focus on their own objectives until the social program can be implemented at scale with minimal risk. Execution can be in-house, but some marketers partner with an external agency for additional dedicated resources.
In Asia Pacific, there is growing recognition that the old way of marketing — driving awareness through push advertising — has sputtered and slowed in the wake of media fragmentation and the disruptive power of digital. Marketers need a new framework to align their marketing decisions to the customer’s experiences with the brand to define customer engagement, budget allocation, and organizational skills.
However, many companies are still in the adolescent phase of social marketing; they have crested the initial wave of social likes and followers, but are now stuck on the next steps. Few have managed to crack the social marketing conundrum — that of showing meaningful return on their social marketing investments. Marketers need to understand and map the customer journey — from enabling discovery to supporting exploration, purchase, and engagement. Astute ones will map each stage of the customer life cycle to an objective from Forrester’s marketing RaDaR model. To create discovery, the objective should be reach. To support exploration, depth is the objective. To nurture engagement, focus on relationships.
At the root of human behavior is the impulse for connection. History is our witness: As times change, certain trends emerge that anchor shared experiences, around which people collectively rally. Today, with social media acting as a platform for ubiquitous connections, diverse consumers build solidarity around digital experiences. Beyond simply looking for deals and discounts, individuals who “friend,” “follow,” and “like” brands seek closer brand relationships.
However, while consumers around the world want to be part of a brand community, some cultures are more enthusiastic than others. Forrester's Consumer Technographics® data shows that Latin American online adults are more passionate about engaging with brands for affective reasons than their European and Japanese counterparts:
This variation roughly parallels Hofstede’s dimensions of culture, which suggests that the differences are partially a reflection of cultural nuances: Those populations that are most motivated to share in the brand community are all-around collectivist rather than individualist.
I’ll be curious to hear if there is a business strategy update, but I don’t think we’ll have more insights on what “unbundling the big blue app” really means. I think one possible option is that social data and contextual identity will be the layer on top of Facebook’s new social conglomerate.
I personally will be looking more specifically for an update on mobile app installs. There's no doubt that Facebook has disrupted the app marketing space by becoming a key player in app discovery — which is the key driver behind its mobile ad revenues.
A growing and significant part of this business comes from direct marketers looking to drive app installs, primarily from gaming and other businesses that are increasingly dependent on mobile, such as travel and retail companies. These players know the lifetime value of their apps and have calculated how much they can spend to drive each app download and still have a positive return on investment (ROI). But marketers in more-traditional businesses or who are pursuing other marketing goals should pay close attention to the unique attributes of their mobile social users and optimize their social strategies to engage them.
According to Reuters, Japanese messaging app Line has filed for an IPO valued at over $10 billion.
No doubt the space is heating up. Competition is increasing. Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion. Japanese Internet giant Rakuten purchased Viber for $900 million. More recently, Kakao Corp (the maker of KakaoTalk, South Korea’s top messaging service and a direct competitor to Line) and Daum (one of South Korea’s largest Internet portals) announced they would merge through an equity swap, creating a company with about $2.9 billion market capitalization!
To put all this activity in perspective, I recently published a new piece of research explaining how messaging apps are morphing into new media portals and are becoming the new face of social.
WeChat is jockeying to become a global digital platform, thanks to the deep pockets of its parent company, the Chinese Internet giant Tencent. The other Chinese Internet giant, Alibaba, which recently invested $280 million in Tango, could also connect the dots between its commerce, payment, media, and social capabilities.
Soon to have 500 million registered online users, Line is definitely a key player in the space. The money to be raised will help in developing the already significant international expansion and further develop the positioning of Line as a “smartphone life platform.” The majority of the $335 million in revenue generated in 2013 came from games and about 20% from stickers — “emoticons on steroids,” as my colleague Julie Ask called them.
. . . Ok, maybe not so "live" because it is now late in the evening on the day of the conference, but I'd like to share a few insights I gathered about the state of business-to-business (B2B) digital marketing today.
BtoB magazine's one-day event features frank conversational discussion from top B2B brands (mostly tech ones like Cisco Systems, Intel, SAP, VMware, Tellabs, and IBM) in moderated panel format. Digital lead generation/pipeline augmentation, social selling, agency trends, building B2B community, developing engaging content, and mobile marketing filled out the agenda.
This was my second year at the event, and the highlight again was the social media awards. Featuring 10 categories ranging from integrated campaign, to Twitter, mobile, and Pinterest, BtoB singles out top performers in social marketing. It also unveils tech and nontech people's-choice awards as voted on by subscribers.
You can find the full list here, and I hope BtoB will publish the scripted descriptions in a future edition because all honorees were interesting and unique and offer B2B marketers a look into how to use social to advance business. Heartfelt congratulations to all award winners — well deserved!
Looking over the list, here are a few observations you can take away about the state of social marketing in B2B: