Should we stop calling social media 'social'?

24 Oct 2017  |  Aaron Goldman 
Should we stop calling social media 'social'?

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Brands are missing numerous marketing opportunities by lumping social platforms under the same banner, writes Aaron Goldman

Last week I kicked off a Mediatel debate on social media by suggesting that we shouldn’t call it social anymore.

Affixing such a label relegates it to a singular media channel and suggests that teams and tools should be oriented around it in a singular fashion. Perhaps even more troublesome is that it puts whatever you’re talking about in the context of and comparison to the social network.

Indeed, platforms like Pinterest and Snapchat tend to get lumped together in the social media bucket when they are quite different from a user perspective and certainly in terms of marketing opportunity.

Pinterest is a visual search engine. Snap is a camera company. Thinking of them as social networks and approaching them with the same strategy as Facebook or Instagram does everyone - consumers, brands, and platforms alike - a major disservice.

To be fair, my company is part of the problem. We have a product called 4C Social that is used to manage campaigns across Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Twitter. And we publish a report called The State of Social that analyses quarterly trends across each of those 6 platforms.

That said, even though our tool makes it easy to apply campaign variables from one “social network” to another and our reports lump together data across them, we always advise taking a unique approach for each platform.

For one thing, the ad formats are different. Some offer promoted posts, some only offer dark posts. Some offer text ads, some only offer video. And when it comes to video, some are vertical, some are horizontal. Some are 10 seconds, some are 30 seconds. Some count a view after three seconds, some count it after 25% has played.

Perhaps more importantly though, the consumer mindset is different. People use Facebook for myriad reasons ranging from communication, to news, to entertainment. People on LinkedIn are generally thinking about something related to their business.

People on Pinterest are seeking inspiration for a project, trip, or event in the future, whereas people on Twitter are typically focused on what’s happening right at this very moment.

As for Instagram and Snap, generally speaking, those on the former are sharing their perfectly curated lives and those on the latter are sharing warts and all knowing that they’ll soon disappear.

Parsing the context with which people use each of these platforms and marrying it with messaging that positions your brand as the most relevant to what they are doing is paramount.

That said, there are some things you should do the same on all “social media” across the board:

1. Audience management. Take interest categories working well on one platform and test them on the others. For example, if you find success with people engaging with fashion content on Facebook, try buying that Lifestyle Category on Snap. And be sure you’re using your first party data to take what you know about people into account for (re)targeting and (de)duplicaton.

2. TV, weather, and sport sync. Real-world signals can be incredibly powerful campaign triggers and should be used across all campaigns to improve performance. For example, having your ad show up on a mobile phone when your ad - or a competitor’s ad - airs on TV can be a great way to capture multi-tasking consumers.

However, while we know that people use more than one device while watching TV - 85% of them per eMarketer - we don’t know app they’re going to pull up so it’s best to cover all bases and have your ads ready to go on all of them. After all, you don’t pay if the ad never shows.

3. Measurement and attribution. As mentioned, each of the platforms has different ad formats and metrics but it’s critical to have one system measuring across them all in a unified way and ascribing value to the ones that are driving downstream activity.

For example, if a person watches your video ad on Twitter and then clicks on your Promoted Pin and buys the product, you need to give credit to both touchpoints.

4. Budget optimisation. At the end of the day, your campaigns have goals and you should move your money to where it’s working best. Having one tool looking after budgets and deploying automated reallocation can help ensure that you are getting the maximum juice for your squeeze.

At the end of the panel, our moderator asked what we will be talking about 12 months from now. Alas, my answer was that we’d still be talking about “social” but that’s OK because it keeps the focus on these tremendously valuable platforms and the marketing opportunities they offer.

And whilst we need to ensure we’re not painting all social media with the same brush, at the core they are all centered around people and as long as we marketeers are keeping in mind that there’s a person on the other side of our ads, we can do our best to enhance their experience and win them over for our brands.


Aaron Goldman is chief marketing officer at 4C Insights, which sponsored a Mediatel debate earlier this month

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