LONDON: Marketers need to work hard to keep on top of the many changes that are taking place in social, including a shift away from communities and continuous ad innovation by the leading platforms.

These are some of the issues addressed in Warc's Toolkit 2015, a guide to six major marketing trends for the year ahead, produced in association with Deloitte. It also highlights the differing roles that the social space now plays in marketing and communications strategy.

Social can be regarded as "the plumbing of the internet" – the pipes through which content flows and reaches and audience. But it also acts as a real-time platform, as a data-rich media buy, as a source of data and insight and as a customer management tool and marketers need to be clear which of these is most relevant to them.

The early approach of building communities of fans or followers on the various social platforms is no longer valid, the Toolkit argues, and cites the advice of former Forrester analyst Darika Ahrens: "Invest in the parts of social media that are working – advertising, customer service and data."

This change has come about in part as a result of changes to the algorithms governing newsfeeds which have reduced the organic reach of branded posts to as little as 2% and led to marketers instead paying to guarantee reach.

"The boundaries between earned media and paid media are blurring," the Toolkit notes, "and brands should review spend on social media regularly as new products emerge."

So far, so straightforward, but a more difficult proposition is the use of social in a CRM context.

There are powerful analytical tools available that can help marketers understand their customers in more insightful ways – they can see who's buying their products, analyse the sentiment of related conversations and discover needs.

But engaging the customer in the right way is about more than just tools. As Nikki Jones, Senior Consultant, Customer Advisory Practice at Deloitte Digital, points out, the right talent is needed to leverage those tools and with the right technique.

Brands, she argues, need to enhance their capabilities across the organisation if they are to keep up with the pace of innovation in this space and set themselves up to be successful.

Warc subscribers can read the full Toolkit report at Non-subscribers can download a sample of this chapter here.

Data sourced from Warc