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Social climbing - Making social an effective marketing tool

What are the keys to making social media a more effective marketing tool? And how can businesses overcome some of the obstacles that arise in the social sphere? Those questions were the central topics of a recent Social Media Matters Insiders roundtable, made up of senior regional marketing heads from well-known brands.

Before it’s possible to come up with any kind of solution, the group noted, it’s necessary to define the problem. Participants agreed on one central insight; that there is all too often a disconnect between how brands communicate and how consumers look for information. Specifically, brands want consumers to follow the pathways that they create, whereas customers typically search through official channels.

There are additional factors to consider; including the inherent challenges of certain retail sectors, such as travel, where consumers are typically on the move and therefore the window for potential engagement is incredibly limited. Elsewhere, within the alcohol industry, a number of laws regulate which platforms can be used, and there are various corporate social responsibility restrictions.

And then there are regional limitations; one company representative discussed how social media has been effective in the United States, but not so much in Asia, where the market is far more fragmented, and requires an array of different strategies.

How, then, can businesses start (and more importantly maintain) conversations with their consumers? The debate focused on three categories within the social realm.


With all the free data out roiling around out there — a glut of information from search trends to cookies and beyond — the question is not so much how to get it, but how to harvest something that’s meaningful. Tools are now coming online which separate what people are actually doing from the noise and static. For example, Sqreem is a cutting-edge data analysis firm that examines patterns of human behavior; the brand spent five years developing the platform so businesses could tap it to solve problems when tackling a specific market.

At its best, data can reveal key moments of truth and provide insight into which channels influenced customers at critical moments, motivating them to make a purchase. Data also holds the potential to help brands more accurately track the customer journey, allowing them to decide who to engage, and when. Knowing the customer is in the right frame of mind to press “buy” at a given time is a valuable tool.

It may require sifting through 15,000 topics to find five that matter, but that’s now possible with the likes of Sqreem. And it’s important not to forget the huge, passive audience lurking out there – people who watch but don’t necessarily participate in the discourse. They, too, have spending power.


Many brands struggle with the question of where social media belongs, not to mention how exactly to get the organization more comfortable with the medium.

The consensus here is that structure has to be freed up, so that employees in charge of social media can react to real-time events and fast-moving trends. That means the chief digital officer and CMO need to understand one another, and operate within a horizontal matrix that connects various departments outputting content.


Spending on digital ranged from 15% to 50% of marketing budgets. But participants in the conversation noted that the execution of that spend is often very poor, with a focus on being tactical rather than strategic, and many channels relying on push strategies rather than connected communication.

This section hinges on the ever-present question of ROI. A conclusion drawn in the conversation was that marketing and e-commerce need to be wedded. If social is not getting any love at budget time, it’s because the content is not connecting with the consumer, and is therefore stalled on the side of the road of the customer journey. By enhancing collaboration between these areas and implementing a more integrated approach, brands stand a much better chance of securing greater returns.

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