Traditional marketing was an activity of writing creative copy for paper brochures and thinking about an advertising strategy. Perhaps there were some promotional events and conferences, but for the most part, marketing reached only as far as traditional media could reach.
The Internet of course, changed everything. It shifted a marketer’s focus to having an online presence and finding customers in new places. Then, social media changed that idea of connection again. Soon, there was a role on a marketing team dedicated to running social media efforts. After a few comfortable years developing social media marketing, the industry is about to see another wave of evolution.
To stay relevant with technology, tactics and trends, social media marketers must first understand how they’ve arrived at their current situation before moving ahead.
With this foundation, they are poised to lead the revolution and the next phase of how we define social media marketing, what it will mean to customers, and its level of importance in an overall marketing strategy.
As content marketing flips the funnel on its head, social media marketers will need to be much more savvy in connecting to customers.
The Evolution of Social Branding
Social media evolved from the early days of popular Internet sites like blogs, chat rooms, and even dating sites. The mainstream platforms still in use today started rolling out in the early 2000s. LinkedIn was founded in May 2003. Facebook was open to only college students beginning in February of 2004. Twitter came onto the scene in March 2006, and the others, including Google+ debuted after.
Most companies using social media to brand themselves started with an account on one of these sites, then expanded to others. Each industry and individual marketing department discovered what worked for them and how they would use the platforms to disseminate messages. Some took a friendly tone; others took an informative one. Regardless of the story brands chose to tell, marketing on these sites became an everyday activity with real thought and metrics behind them.
The beginning of these sites was the idea of connecting between people, but slowly both the sites hoping to monetize their creations and the brands hoping to reach a larger group of customers developed ads. LinkedIn introduced advertising in May 2006, while YouTube integrated video ads in July 2007. Twitter, which took its time to find its own purpose, started selling promoted Tweets in 2010, followed shortly by promoted trends and accounts.
The real leader in social media advertising was Facebook. The first Facebook ads appeared in 2005 for PartyPoker.com, Cutco Knives, summer camps and Apple. The site, unintentionally, gave advertisers a perfect way to personalize their content. Because the first users were strictly college students with specific .edu emails, brands could target Facebook profiles based exactly on which college they were seeking. For example, a summer camp in Connecticut could send ads to the pages of Yale students.
Social media made personalization—an incredibly important part of marketing today—a dominant and viable way of making marketing more effective.
Current Realities of Social Marketing
Social media went from being a simple ad or account delivering a single company message to a massive portion of marketing strategy. This is when social media strategists became a real job and an important one at that. These professionals are now integral to how a marketing team spreads content, makes sales and analyzes marketing efforts.
In the B2B marketing sphere, 41% of marketers use LinkedIn, 30% use Facebook, 19% use Twitter and 10% use all other forms. The reality is that most marketers use a generous blend of all these platforms, knowing leads can come from anywhere and a social strategy is only complete if it is comprehensive.
LinkedIn takes a much more informative tone, while Twitter is a good mix of original content sharing, content curation, and fun gifs or memes. Facebook is more conversational as it is primarily a consumer-based platform, but B2B marketers still find that connecting with other businesses on this site is valuable to the overall social conversation they are cultivating.
With the value of social media marketing established, social media management platforms emerged to make the management of multiple accounts easier.
From scheduling to analytics, this technology makes it possible to streamline strategy and prove the ROI of social media marketing. Conversion trackers are especially helpful in visualizing the effectiveness of a single Tweet, Facebook or LinkedIn post. This technology is still becoming more advanced and will continue to shape how marketers use social media.
Shifting to a Social Experience
The growing trend across marketing is an emphasis on the customer experience. Companies, experts, and customers are stressing that a purchasing decision is influenced most by the experience of the customer throughout the buying journey. It will become the responsibility of social media marketers to integrate this idea into everything they do.
The social marketing brand story and all social campaigns can’t just remain a blurred line between social interaction and content marketing. It must evolve to be a fully immersive, innovative and exciting experience between a brand and a customer. That might involve revamping how marketers approach social media altogether, but it will most certainly involve a deeper understanding of what types of experiences customers expect and respond to. Their input will grow to be even more vital than it is now.
Technology will also aid and shape the form social experiences take. It will enable social marketers to create these desired experiences and will give them new avenues to produce content, think differently, and experiment for new outcomes. It will certainly be the only way forward in generating experiences and connecting with customers.
With origins in simple ideas, social media became a booming piece of culture and marketing. It’s hard to imagine a world without social media dominating our lives and our business-to-business relationships.
Researching, choosing and using a product or service has become intertwined with our interactions on social media, making it not a question of if will it evolve?, but how.