Where Is the Future of Social Media Marketing? [Research]

As social media marketing continues to mature, what are marketers planning to do? According to research by Awareness, Inc. and reported by eMarketer, 70 percent are looking to expand their mix of platforms.

Chart by eMarketer, January 2012

When it comes to social media platforms, the marketers’ top five social media choices are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, and YouTube (and other video) as reported by both Awareness, Inc.’s research and Social Media Examiner’s 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

Chart from page 21 of Social Media Examiner Report

Social media marketing tools marketers are planning to use in 2012:

Here are the social media tools that marketers are considering according to Social Media Examiner’s 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. (Note: This research was fielded before Pinterest’s high growth earlier this year and Instagram’s purchase by Facebook.)

Chart from page 31 of Social Media Examiner Report

  1. Google+. Google+’s 90 million users and 1 million business pages have marketers’ attention. In part, this interest is driven by their need to remain visible on Google search.
  2. Blogs. Regardless length of social media marketing experience, marketers want to learn more about blogs despite tepid usage by businesses. As a social media tool, blogs should be a no-brainer for businesses since they support the purchase process at every step, provide content that feeds social media, and support search optimization. (To help, here are 42 tips to get your business blog on track.)
  3. Facebook. As the 800-pound gorilla of social media in terms of the number of users and time spent that continues to change, marketers can’t afford to ignore Facebook whether it’s part of your mix or not since it can have an impact on other social media platforms, either directly or indirectly.
  4. LinkedIn. While stronger among B2B marketers with its diverse content offering, don’t limit your thinking to B2B or customer acquisition. Think more broadly across your organization to human resources and other internal functions such as where building relationships is important.
  5. YouTube (and other video). As the second biggest social media platform after Facebook and the second biggest search engine, YouTube is a must-have in every marketer’s social media mix. Since video provides a 360-degree view of your product and shows it in real-life situations, with increased mobile devices usage consumers can view this content wherever they are.
  6. Twitter. Despite requiring its own language, Twitter continues to expand its reach among marketers. This microblogging platform is best used for time-sensitive messages, customer service (if your team is properly trained), and daily specials.
  7. Social bookmarking/news sites. For marketers, social bookmarking is focused on socializing their owned media to increase earned media impressions. This applies to their website, blog, email, and other communications, online and offline.
  8. Photo sharing sites. Encompassing a wide range of options including Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram (now part of Facebook), Tumblr, and others, photos are 2012’s breakthrough, must-have social media element. The reason is simple. With a smartphone anyone can snap a shot and share it without worrying about their writing. It’s low-risk user-generated content that can lure lurkers into contributing content. For marketers, it enhances your branding and builds content about your business.
  9. Geo-location. Less than a quarter of respondents are looking to use geo-location in terms of platforms like Foursquare and Yelp. This is attributable to privacy concerns especially by women. What the data understates is the geo-location built into services like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and social shopping apps.
  10. Forums. As granddaddy of social media that predates the public Internet, forums take a number of different forms from bulletins to Q&A sites like LinkedIn, Yahoo Answers, and Quora. Q&A sites don’t necessarily require a formal social media process.
  11. Daily deals. The decline in use of daily deals isn’t a surprise given the research showing risks to be higher than the potential gains and antidotal evidence revealing a lack of long-term gain for merchants beyond word of mouth and foot traffic. That said, don’t underestimate Amazon’s potential to expand this market via its extensive e-reader customer base.

As a marketer, where should you focus your efforts in 2012?

Instead of running after the bright shiny new social media marketing thing, go back to marketing basics. Here are five elements and related questions to help you determine which social media platforms are best to meet your needs.

  1. Assess your business objectives. What corporate goals are you trying to achieve? Are you looking to increase awareness, build your brand, attract new prospects and leads, increase sales, or provide post-purchase support?
  2. Determine your target audience. As part of defining your marketing personas, which social media platforms do your audience use and why?
  3. Integrate branding. Which brand elements will you highlight on social media platforms? How do you give your brand a 360-degree perspective? How does it appear in photographs, video, audio, and real-life events?
  4. Create content. Since social media marketing requires content marketing, what questions do your prospects and customers need answered before they buy? Is there related information you can offer that will aid their decision without being promotional?
  5. Measure results. Based on your goals, what will you track to determine your social media success? Are these metrics incorporated into your digital analytics so that you can measure them later?

Before rushing to expand your use of social media, take time to assess where your effort and resources would be best used to achieve your business objectives. One thing’s for certain, as social media continues to mature, it will be necessary to show bottom-line results!

To which platforms do you plan to extend your social media marketing efforts and why?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

This column was originally published on April 16, 2012.

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