Are you ready for social media in 2015? Today we published Predictions 2015: Social Media Grows Up. This report details our four key predictions for the coming year in social media — and lists the nine things every marketing leader should do to get the most from social media next year.
The reality is, social media isn’t changing at the pace it once did. Sure, social data breaches and increased government regulation will change the landscape next year — but don’t expect 2015 to be a year of social transfiguration. Instead, as the industry matures, you’ll have a chance to catch your breath and focus on a few really important social initiatives.
My favorite prediction from the report? That as social media matures, branded communities will make a comeback. It makes sense: Marketing leaders report they’re significantly less satisfied with Facebook and Twitter marketing than with branded forums. But nearly twice as many marketers run Twitter and Facebook accounts as host their own communities. It’s time for marketers to focus their efforts on the social tactics that actually work. Plus, brand-hosted forums can help you all the way across the customer life cycle:
Most of the large marketers we survey tell us their companies are active on Twitter. But just as marketers say they’re not getting enough value from Facebook, Twitter marketers are still looking for greater value as well. In fact, our new report today reveals that only 55% of companies that market on Twitter say they’re satisfied with the business value they achieve:
Why are Twitter marketers still looking for greater value?
Marketers are using Twitter for the wrong objective. Marketers’ most common objective on Twitter is to build brand awareness. But consumers are most likely to become a fan or follower of a company in social media after they’ve already bought from that company. This means that marketers would have more luck using Twitter to engage their existing customers than to find new ones.
Twitter must do more to support marketers. Twitter’s marketing business is still relatively young — its ads have been generally available for only about 3 years — but that business must mature quickly. Marketers say they need more guidance, education, service, and support if they’re going to use Twitter successfully. And just 44% of marketers say they’re satisfied with Twitter as a marketing partner today.
Over 40% of business technology decision-makers indicate that support forums, discussion forums, and professional social networks influence them throughout their online journey. Yet many marketers overlook the impact of the conversations that occur within these networks.
Chances are your company has an online community that requires your attention. Whether you have a support forum on your corporate website, a company page on LinkedIn, or a brand page on Facebook, somewhere there is a community of customers, partners, and influencers that is talking about your brand.
It is up to you to take advantage of this opportunity to interact with your community members, but it requires a new marketing mindset. It requires a shift from traditional media creation to social capital creation. It requires an ability to engage and motivate influencers. It also requires time, energy, and commitment from you and the stakeholders within your organization.
It is difficult to ignore the impact that community interactions have on decision-makers. But why do online communities often fail? We speak to many clients who struggle with establishing their communities and found five common mistakes:
1. Choosing the wrong approach. Communities are not a “one size fits all” strategy for customer engagement. Companies must understand how and where their customers and prospects prefer to engage online and the types of activities that will drive member participation.
Today, at the Forrester eBusiness Forum in Chicago, Nate Elliott announced our 2012 B2C and B2B Groundswell Awards winners and finalists! One of my most enjoyable tasks as a Forrester analyst is reviewing all of the Groundswell awards submissions. And I know many of you also look forward to seeing the innovative approaches that other B2B companies use to listen to and engage with customers. This year, we received 45 entries and we judged submissions across seven categories: Listening, Talking, Energizing, Spreading, Supporting, Embracing and Mobile.
It’s that time of year again! That is, it’s time to look back at the very best social programs your company has run in the past twelve months, and to prepare your entry to the Forrester Groundswell Awards. This year’s entries are due on September 5, 2012 – and you can enter using our online form. We’ll be presenting the awards at Forrester Forums in October.
We’ve been lucky enough to recognize some fantastic social applications since we started these awards back in 2007 – and we’d like for you to have a great chance of winning, too. To improve your odds, we recommend you focus on two key points:
1. Enter in the right category.This year we’ve got 17 categories spread across three divisions: Business to Consumer, Business to Business, and Business to Employee. (If you’ve entered in previous years, you’ll notice that our two B2C divisions – North America and International – have been combined into a single global division; and that our Management division has been renamed Business to Employee.) Choose the division that best describes your program’s audience (B2C, B2B or B2E), and then choose the award category that best describes the objectives of your program (for instance, Listening, Talking or Supporting). If you’re not sure which category fits best, you can review the descriptions of each category on our FAQ page.
I've been hopscotching Europe this week, seeing clients and colleagues in London and Istanbul — but my thoughts have been in Los Angeles, where in a couple of weeks I'll be giving a speech called "Taking Social Media From Cool To Critical" at the 2012 Forrester Marketing Leadership Forum.
I chose that topic because it’s a concern I hear almost every day — and sure enough, I heard it from several clients on my travels this week. "We’ve put time and resources into social media marketing, because it seemed like we had to, but . . . it’s just not having much of a business impact." By comparison, four or five years into the era of search marketing, most companies were making a killing from their SEM programs. The same goes for email marketing. But here we are four or five years into the era of social media marketing — and for many companies, social media is still a curiosity, a sideshow that attracts lots of interest but adds little value. It's still cool, but at most firms, it's just not a critical part of the marketing plan.
I think the main reason marketers still struggle to make social pay is simple: They overestimate social media as a marketing tool. Let me be clear: I'm not bashing social's value for marketing; social media can have an enormous impact on the success of your marketing programs, as we’ve seen time and time again. The point I'm making is that it can’t create that success all on its own. You need to use it as merely one tool in your marketing tool kit.
I've noticed a disturbing trend in one of the markets I study. Thirty percent of marketers say their top social media goal is creating brand impact, but only 10% tell us they measure brand impact — a gap of 20 percentage points. But then while just 4% say sentiment or engagement are their top goals, a whopping 26% measure these numbers —leaving us with an almost identical gap of 22 percentage points, but in the other direction. It’s clear what's happening here: Marketers are using sentiment and engagement numbers as a proxy for brand impact surveys.
Deep down I love the idea of measurement proxies. A properly constructed and proven proxy could be a cheap, quick, and effective stand-in for direct measurement of things that are quite frankly hard to measure — like brand impact.
But there’s a big problem here: I've been looking pretty hard for good measurement proxies for a while now, and I’ve found very few that could be described as "properly constructed and proven." And I'm pretty sure none of the marketers in our survey have proven their proxies — because if they'd tried, they'd have almost certainly failed.
European marketers are as excited about social media today as ever before. In fact, according to our annual survey, three-quarters of interactive marketers in Europe either already use social media or plan to use it by the end of 2011 – and they expect social media marketing to grow in effectiveness more than any other online or offline marketing channel in the coming years. But there’s a problem: European marketers still aren’t spending very much on social programs. In fact, a quarter of the marketers in our survey plan to spend less than €35,000 on social media this year – and many of the rest won’t spend much more than that. And most European marketers said they had no plans to increase their social media budget this year compared to last.
I think this lack of spending is both a symptom, and a cause, of problems inherent in how European marketers use social media:
It’s a cause, because the resources aren’t there. One of the biggest problems social media marketers face right now is a lack of resources. When it comes to social media they have trouble finding budget, staff, time, and even good help from their agencies. And that actually makes a lot of companies afraid of success. You’d be surprised how often I hear statements like "I want to start a Facebook page, but what if it takes off? I don’t have the budget to staff it full time!" When marketers are afraid of success, rather than failure, then you know you’ve got a problem.
By 2016, advertisers will spend $77 billion on interactive marketing – as much as they do on television today. Search marketing, display advertising, mobile marketing, email marketing, and social media will grow to 26%35% of all advertising spend within the next five years.**
What does this growth mean for you?
1) Interactive media has gained legitimacy in the marketing mix. In past forecasts, we found that interactive budgets grew because of marketing experiments, or firms looking for lower-cost alternatives to traditional media. No more. The next five years of growth comes from bigger interactive teams spending sizably to bake emerging media into their strategies for creating rich customer relationships.
2) Search’s share will shrink. Search marketing (paid search and SEO) will continue to own the largest portion of the interactive marketing pie. But its overall share will decline as marketers shift search spend into biddable display investments, mobile marketing, and even social media.
3) Display media will rally. Bolstered by advances in audience targeting and bid-based buying approaches, advertisers will renew their love affair with display media. We expect display investments to grow as marketers apply display instead of search. And niche or remnant inventory sells for higher prices due to demand-driven pricing.
If you think your organization is already doing great things with social technology you may be right. If you are seeing measurable results, I encourage you to nominate your organization for a Groundswell award.
What's a Groundswell award? Josh Bernoff, one of the authors of Groundswell, explains the history of the award in his blog here. Each year we review multiple nominations across various categories of social technology use; we identify the examples we believe best demonstrate the criteria for winning each award. We have categories that include internal and external uses of social technologies, and we're especially interested to see examples of strong collaboration between IT and Marketing. This is the fifth year we are running these awards (you can see past winners here and a full list of award categories below).