As CMO of a social media marketing company, I field many questions from brand and retail marketers who are trying to make sense of the rapidly evolving social and mobile landscape. Some of their queries have to do with the ins and outs of various technologies, but most are related to the meaningful adoption of those technologies by consumers and competitors. In a nutshell: What’s hot vs. what’s real?
In this post I’ll tackle some of the most common questions I’m asked regarding Facebook, Pinterest, and mobile.
Q: Facebook has made several changes lately, such as updating Offers, launching Facebook Gifts and testing Collections. What do these changes mean for marketers and how they approach social media marketing?
A: For social media marketers, Facebook remains the primary channel. While most are expanding their content and conversation strategies to include Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, etc., Facebook remains the only channel to really combine audience, advertising, and experiences at scale.
Facebook’s recent announcements are all aimed at helping marketers better activate and monetize their audiences. Historically, marketers have seen fairly low social-conversion rates from Facebook to their e-commerce sites, and these new vehicles are likely to improve them through a better combination of targeting, experience format, and conversion actions.
For marketers, this is a great opportunity to experiment with new social promotion opportunities while staying true to the voice and tone of their brands in Facebook. While the majority of Facebook users say they want exclusive offers and access to products from the brands they “Like,” those offers and products must be presented through a social product experience that doesn’t come off as too commercial.
I believe we’ll see a lot of innovation–and not just from Facebook–around social posts and landing pages that offer compelling social product experiences, which, in turn, will offer significantly higher social-conversion rates for brands that learn to use them well.
Q: Brands are experimenting on Pinterest, but is it truly a viable marketing platform?
A: Obviously, the part of consumers’ activity on Pinterest that appears to represent “product discovery and sharing” is very interesting to marketers. This is particularly true for those segments that are driven by fashion and design–where Pinterest seems to offer a social-powered upgrade to things such as apparel Look Books and home décor Inspiration Boards.
Most of what we’ve seen brands using Pinterest for to date is the publishing of product images onto boards that largely mirror the collections and categories they use on their e-commerce or .com sites. Some, however, are using Pinterest as a way to create a different “slice” through their products, organizing them according to favorites, celebrities, or weekly highlights, for example. This may spark an interesting trend as social product merchandising starts to evolve and diverge from typical in-store and online categories.
I think the jury is still out on Pin-It-to-Win-It contests and the like. With enough media support, they seem to garner additional Pinterest followers, but I haven’t seen any meaningful revenue or product engagement results to date.
With regard to Pinterest being a “truly viable marketing platform,” I’d have to say: not yet. At this point, it’s a useful social channel to a potentially interesting group of consumers (depending on your brand), but in order to become a real marketing platform, Pinterest is going to have to offer brands much more control over product presentation, engagement, and conversion actions.
It will be interesting to see whether Pinterest pursues that via a more complete “Pages” model (akin to Facebook, Twitter, and G+), or whether it attempts some new format to provide brands with more turf they can call their own.
Q: Nearly 50 percent of all people access social media via their mobile phones, yet ads over mobile aren’t working as well as hoped. How should CMOs be thinking about this social-mobile convergence?
A: The convergence (and growth) of social and mobile is almost certainly going to be the defining marketing trend of the decade, so figuring out how to play–and play well–in that space has to be top-of-mind for CMOs.
We’re not quite there yet, but I think we’ll soon see our view of social and mobile customers actually merge, meaning “social customers = mobile customers” from a demographic and segmentation perspective. They’re really the same people.
From a channel and experience perspective, however, the convergence is more nuanced.
- Social can be viewed as both a “channel” through which to reach audiences (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) and a “context” for experiences (personalization based on Open Graph).
- Similarly, mobile represents both a “channel” for experiences (smaller screen, touch-based native apps) and a “context” for those experiences (location-aware, always-on).
This, understandably, leads to some complexity and confusion for marketers who are trying to reach and engage their social-mobile audiences. Many of the brands I’m seeing do it best are taking a step back and looking at their customers' behaviors and need-states–and then designing their messages, experiences, or applications with specific use-cases in mind.
For example, a brand might align their social-mobile strategy something like this:
- Use social channels to reach interested customers with brand and product conversations, content, and experiences.
- Use social context to gain customer insight and target messages across all channels (social, desktop, mobile, email).
- Use mobile channels to deliver utility-based apps and content that address customers’ needs.
- Use mobile context to target and personalize content to customers based on their locations and activities.
Obviously, these four vectors often overlap (e.g., using the Facebook App on an iPhone), and developing a strategy that leverages each according to its capabilities makes it easier to design experiences that take best advantage of that overlap. I think we’ll see even more “mobile-social first” experiences from brands–ones that were designed specifically for customers at the intersection of all four vectors.
Taking all of this into account, what does it mean for CMOs as they build their Facebook, broader social media, and mobile marketing strategies for 2013?
Innovation across social and mobile will lead the way, and chief marketers will need to stay nimble to take advantage of these changes. Make lots of small bets, and learn as much as you can from them.
And while technology landscape changes will happen quickly, so, too, will consumers’ ability to change with them. As a result, marketing programs and promotions that effectively engage consumers in their social and mobile attention streams–regardless of channel or device–will rule the day when it comes to driving business results.