Is Social Dead? The Future Of Marketing


If we look back on the recent trends in marketing, one thing is clear – we’ve reached a major crossroad in our use of digital tools to engage customers. Social, the marketing department’s once shiny new toy is starting to lose its sheen. Leading us to the question: “is this the death of social?”

In reality, the answer to that question is “no”. While previously social was seen as the centrepiece of marketing strategy, now marketers realise that social is not the whole strategy or the end point in itself, but rather just one channel in a much broader, multi-touch marketing campaign.

How Did We Get Here?

A large proportion of budget is being spent by UK marketing departments on digital tools and tactics, and according to eMarketer by 2018, 56.5 percent of all ad spend in the UK will be on digital.

However, the saturation of this market has led to many people scratching their heads trying to figure out what to prioritise, with the result being a ‘do it all’ approach. The marketing focus has been spread thinly across too many digital channels and platforms, leading away from a structured, strategic, insight-based approach.

How Do We Get It Right Going Forward?

Firstly, CMOs looking to develop a robust strategy for the next year will need to sort out this confusing digital mess – to work out what’s working and what’s not. It’s less about being on all channels, and more about being where your customers are most active.

According to Forrester Research, Facebook only shows each brand’s posts to 16 per cent of its followers. And on Twitter, the average tweet only reaches about 10 percent of followers because they are drowned out in a sea of traffic. Instead, a more simplistic approach should be taken, putting customers back at the centre of all marketing activity.

A Customer Centric Approach

So you’ve worked out what your customers want and where they like to hang out online, now what? A number of companies are using digital to build a foundation of solid customer service, but you need the right skills and resources in place for this to be successful.

For instance MoneyGram, a US money transfer company, faced a number of challenges when they first ventured into social media. Without a dedicated team responding to customers, they were not there when it mattered. Additionally, they faced the unique challenge of having to protect consumers from scams and fraud involving money transfers.

By investing in a top-tier customer care team and the right technology, they have re-positioned themselves as a leader in fraud protection and education. Meeting their objective to mitigate risk while increasing social care outbound volume by 95 percent and decreasing response time by 93 percent.

Community Growth

By switching focus from call agents and live chats to onsite communities and forums, there is a lot more scope for brands to drive discussion. And, a discussion that takes place on a community lives on as valuable content for others to utilise – as opposed to a one-time live chat with an agent.

A broader total community approach – one which goes beyond the customer service department, to tap into expertise from not only employees in other business units but also customers and stakeholders – can help streamline customer engagement.

Through the creation of compelling content, and dialogue between customers and prospects, users can gauge the benefits of specific products, as well as access feedback from individuals who have already used the same products. This is a win-win for marketers, as peer-to-peer reviews help grow the community base without placing any extra stress on resourcing. In effect – your customers become your marketing ambassadors.

A great example of this is giffgaff, a ‘sim card only’ mobile network operator, based in the UK. They do things differently compared to larger mobile networks, in that their community is essentially run by giffgaff customers rather than by a team of social media managers.

Members get rewarded for running parts of the business such as answering questions in the community, enlisting new members, or helping to promote the company. As a result, giffgaff keeps its costs low and passes the savings back to its members. The community has responded to over a million questions, 95 percent of which are answered within 60 minutes, resulting in giffgaff’s Net Promoter Score rising to 73 per cent, above the global average.

A Deeper Understanding

The final piece of the jigsaw is to make your data work harder. As marketing continues to shift toward a more personal model, data gleaned from customer interactions online can generate great business insights.

Brands need to use social data to see what customers actually DO, not just what they buy. This will provide marketers with the right information to have a meaningful, personalised conversation with a prospect.

For example, Sephora is using its online beauty community BeautyTalk to build the Sephora brand, establish Sephora’s expertise in the beauty world, and ultimately drive sales and loyalty. The company uses customer insights gleaned from the ongoing dialogue on the site to continue to develop new ways to meet their needs.

Its most engaged community members spend more than 133 hours every month on BeautyTalk, sharing products and activities with consumers outside of BeautyTalk, effectively becoming evangelists for the brand.

In A Nutshell

Social isn’t dead. By focusing just on those channels that your customers want to engage on, you will be able to deliver real business ROI. The result will be a greater understanding of the target market, ultimately leading to happier customers, better products, and most importantly more sales.