What Social Fragmentation Means for Marketers

Recently, Champs Sports, ESPN.com, General Electric, and Cole Haan, among others, added their Tumblr addresses into display and TV ads. Tumblr has been a destination that’s “on the up” for some time, having now grown to over 102 million blogs, so this brand attention isn’t surprising. Media fragmentation – consumers accessing digital sites from an increasingly diverse set of screens – is well-acknowledged. But now we have social fragmentation as well. B2C social is no longer just Facebook and Twitter. For brands looking to drive awareness in the consumer space, it’s a social patchwork of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and YouTube – each with its own zeitgeist and rules of engagement.

Social fragmentation has resulted from consumers having myriad interests, flitting from place to place, following friends, following trends, following celebrities, leaving cohorts they are “done” with, and moving on to fresh groups and new identities. And everywhere, there are literally thousands of brand messages a day competing for their attention. Brands must be consistent, clear, and memorable to stand out in the cacophony of messages being delivered to these fragmented audiences hanging out on multiple social platforms.

In the “old” days, brands could run campaigns on their websites/microsites, use offline and online paid media to drive traffic, and consider that to be “digital mission accomplished.” Then, brands could safely add in Facebook and Twitter and consider their social plans nailed. No more.

So what are some practical choices available for marketers to deal with social fragmentation?

1. Pick one “socialized” digital campaign “home,” and expand from there. It’s both unwieldy and expensive to cook up niche campaigns on each network. Especially for brands with limited people, time, and financial resources, it’s far better to put maximum effort in front of the most active fanbase, and then look for ways to drive traffic to and from other social platforms. A “pin it to win it” campaign primarily run on Pinterest can have resulting content be used as promotional posts on Facebook to drive more activity. A hashtag photo contest running primarily on Instagram can be repurposed as Twitter links to drive engagement. A YouTube video effort can be turned into a content voting initiative on Facebook.

With a campaign “home,” brands can build social bridges so consumers can spread the word to their favorite social hubs, to maximize earned reach.

2. Leverage content across social hubs. There are one billion people on the planet on Facebook. So brands can safely assume that targeted promotional content on Facebook can reach a good audience. Brands can use content submitted to campaigns on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube directly in Facebook posts, both to drive traffic and solve the daily challenge of “what should I post today?” An integrated engagement app on Facebook might include the best of the brand’s Instagram channel, or the best of Instagram combined with Pinterest in the same channel. It could be all content on a seasonal theme, or it could be just a curated overall “best of.” Either way, it brings the Instagram/Pinterest content to a wider audience of people, some of whom may not be Instagram or Pinterest users. SmartWool’s Fanalog, for example, allows fans to showcase their favorite SmartWool products on the platform of their choice (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and share content between platforms. The brand takes care of curating and promoting the best on Facebook.

3. Allow social channels to work together, each doing what they do best. When all social channels work together playing off the best of each, brands maximize earned potential. Nike, with enviable resources, and traditionally at the forefront of all new media marketing, did this brilliantly with the 2012 #MakeItCount campaign. Designed to publicize the release of the FuelBand, it started as a viral YouTube effort, and then expanded to asking fans how they planned to “Make it Count” through promoted hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, as well as on TV and print. Finally, the campaign extended to in-store experiences, with posters of famous athletes’ Twitter handles and the hashtag #MakeItCount. With this campaign, Nike showed that it understood consumers want to engage with a brand where they are. Nike gave its fans something to do on their favorite social platform, and managed to tie it all together consistently and clearly.

It’s not only possible, but highly effective to fuse experiences from myriad platforms together. When brands let each social platform do what it does best (cool mobile photos – Instagram; inspirational ideas in photos – Pinterest; shareable “as it happens” life content – Twitter; in-depth social conversations – Facebook), allow sharing of the results across channels, and then aggregate it all together where the largest social audience resides, the social impact is maximized. Just because the social fanbase is hanging out in different places, doesn’t mean brands can’t build effective campaign bridges between those fragmented audiences.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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