Social media's inflection point

20 Oct 2017  |  Newsline Staff 
Social media's inflection point

Braude and Goldman

Paid social media advertising is growing fast, but as the channel matures, the way marketers think about it needs to change, according to experts.

Speaking at a Mediatel debate on Thursday (19 Oct), Aaron Goldman, the chief marketing officer at data science company 4C, argued that 'social' is no longer much of a differentiator, and accepting this will help marketers to make more of the nuanced offerings from each of the different platforms.

"At the core of social media is, of course, the social element and the idea that content is assembled around people and networks," Goldman said.

"But frankly that's probably where the line starts and stops - almost to the point where we might need to drop the word 'social' entirely from the way we think about social media as a channel."

When we think about today's social networks, Goldman said, the element of 'social' is "just the plumbing" - it's not the core differentiation. This is what was described as social media's "inflection point."

Goldman noted that content is arranged around the context of what people like, or what other people like, and that's giving advertisers much more precision by using data about connections and behaviours. To that end, the social in social media is simply a mechanism to deliver relevant content and it does a "disservice" to the myriad social platforms to lump them together as just one thing.

"It's not dissimilar to where we were with digital a few years ago," Goldman said. "Back then digital was a separate department. Now it's just a part of everything, as it should be."

Paid social is certainly expanding. In 2016 is was worth $36bn according to Forrester, and that is expected to bloom to $101.4bn by 2021, a three-fold increase over five years.

This is fuelled by advertisers using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat, amongst others.

Speaking alongside Goldman, Twitter's head of account sales, Monica Manoras, said that the problem of lumping social media under one umbrella-term, or comparing each of the platforms to each another, was not particularly useful given the channel's maturity and diversity.

Manoras

"Each of the platforms have different use cases and different things that they're good at; and then, within that, you have hundreds of possible targeting opportunities and ways of measuring campaigns. It's complicated."

Are advertisers and agencies therefore equipped to make best use of social?

Sharon Braude, director, digital marketing, search & social, EMEA, at Disney, argued that there's more that could be done on the client side.

"Advertisers are spending a lot of money in social, but they're often not making the most of it. Do they really understand the consumer; are they using the right tools; are they getting to the heart of the data? Probably not," she said, emphasising that seeking out "useful" data is a key issue.

However, Renee Mellow, head of emerging digital activation, EMEA, Mediacom, said that agencies have made a significant investment in social specialists, and this has made them well-placed to take advantage.

"Operationally, in terms of activation and buying on different platforms, I think agencies are very strong. They have invested in specialists and there's lots of experience there. There are tonnes of amazing planners and buyers."

Mellow's concern, however, is that too many social media platforms have been steering the advertising agenda by themselves.

"Agencies and advertisers want to have a point of view on these channels, and what they should really be able to do on them. They don't just want to be sold another ad product.

"I think there's an opportunity, therefore, to have a more strategic look about how the [social media platforms] operate in a 360 degree plan."

Video interview: Goldman and Mellow

Meanwhile, Twitter's Manoras suggested that agencies could look at their organisational structures to ensure they are able to cope with what is a complicated and evolving part of the media landscape.

"All agencies are set-up in different ways, and sometimes social is part of a digital team, but most often it's not. But even that begs the original question: is 'social' the right terminology?"

Whatever the answer to that question is, Manoras said she sees a general trend towards better integration and this is a positive strategy.

"I think that's what agencies are moving towards now," she said. "There's no perfect structure, but the best one is the one that gets the most out of its people, and will therefore deliver most for its customers."


Mediatel's breakfast debate was hosted in partnership with 4C. All reporting is editorially independent. For information on future events, click here.

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