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Marketing 101: Thank social media for taking you back to fundamentals.

Updated: Sep 9, 2018

A new era is dawning on us that will separate the true marketers from the 'business-as-usual' marketers. On which side are you?

Ask anybody or watch your family behavior, and two patterns will surely emerge:

1. Less people are watching TV.

2. Everybody is constantly looking at their mobile phone and social media channels.

I understand these conclusions are empiric but you would expect them to result in drastic cutbacks in TV advertising and a major shift towards social media, wouldn´t you?

Well, social media advertising estimates in the USA confirm a dramatic increase over the next few years from about $13B in 2016 to $60B in 2022.

Yet, TV advertising spending in the USA is expected to be higher in 2019 than in 2014 at $69.17B (there was a decline from 2016, but that year was high due to the presidential elections). Does that make sense?

My opinion about how slow this shift from TV is happening is due to a few factors:

  • TV still represents a ´one-stop shopping place´ to reach millions of consumers. It is easy to manage. Social media in contrast is very diversified. The landscape is changing fast and information is not yet consolidated in ways that decisions can be easily taken.

  • Developing a performant social media strategy requires significant and continuous investment over time. In a world driven by short-term results, it is easier to deal with variable advertising spending that can be adjusted at any point in order to protect the bottom line.

  • Senior marketing managers belong to a different generation and are not used to social media. Faced with an uncertain plan of action, they tend to keep running their business as it was always done.

  • Even when marketing managers want to bring more radical changes, the support from top level management is often lacking. Purely driven by ROI, executives struggle to know what to measure. They do not experience consumers´ behavior directly on the channels and have difficulty grasping the value of engagement.

  • Traditional advertising agencies also have limited expertise in the field and tend to delay the shift in order to protect their income.

Time to go back to fundamentals

The true responsibility of marketers has always been to influence their consumers in a way that they take action (usually to buy a product or service). This has not changed!

With the emergence of social media, the methods of influence have obviously changed, yet too many marketers keep running their business as usual relegating social media to a side show. It seems that they are overlooking their fundamental obligation, delaying the inevitable decisions (until the next job? retirement?) and hiding behind the words of John Wanamaker, a famous marketer: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”

It is now time to go back to the fundamentals of marketing, and ask yourself how effective is your spending, how sustainable is your approach. In the next 5 years, tectonic shifts will happen in advertising allocations and, if you have not prepared your business for it, your company will be at a significant competitive disadvantage.

Build communities of influence

As an entrepreneur, I have been exclusively involved in social media for the last five years. I have identified social media communities as 'real estate' assets, and turned our family into a digital family with five million followers and one million daily engagement across various channels. I have also advised corporations, start-ups and marketing agencies on their media strategy.

Here are a few beliefs I developed along the way about community building:

  • Despite the lack of control, do not worry about aligning your community with a platform. Yes, they will constantly adjust their algorithms (not always in your favor). Consider this as a competitive advantage. Platforms need your content and truly engaged communities will always be able to adjust.

  • Anyone can build an engaged community, provided they are truly committed to it. Ensure your smaller competitors do not create the leading sectorial community before you.

  • Building an engaged community is an iterative process with trial and errors (not unlike many other marketing activities). Do not expect a straight path, and do not delay your commitment for lack of certainty.

  • Building a community requires investment. Unless you are a one-man show with great creativity, it is not possible to build a large community organically anymore.

  • It takes minimum 15 months to see some results, so start right away.

  • To get your community noticed will be significantly more costly in a few years. You could expect costs to raise 3 to 5 times in two years.

  • The number of followers is a weak measure of influence. Engagement is a better measure. But the ultimate goal is loyalty.

  • Understand the differences between an influencer-based community and a community built for a company, brand or product.

  • There is a role for a community built under your brand name, and also for niche communities in your sector that are more neutral. The positioning of these communities requires consumer-centric (not company-centric) thinking.

  • A strong social channel is a new form of lobbying, and hence power.

  • The time when your community was in the hands of a content manager is over. You need senior executives controlling your social media.

  • New brands and competitive businesses will emerge purely based on the strength of a community.

  • Marketing agencies will need to re-invent themselves. They won´t be able to take your money anymore for the vague promise of building social presence without having ever achieved significant influence before.

  • New business opportunities will emerge in the B2B social media sector, particularly in terms of data analysis and community building.

  • Communities will play an increasing larger role in sales lead generation strategy and customer support operations.

It is time for marketers to think about social media for what it is: the new main tool of influence over their consumers. This recognition should result in the questioning of all current marketing activities, and the realization that it can become a potential threat to their business or a significant competitive advantage.

Please share with us the impact social media is having on your business.

Thank you!

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