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Has social media marketing grown up?

News, 29 September 2016

LONDON: The fast-moving world of social media presents ongoing challenges to marketers, but, in some respects at least, it is starting to grow up, according to the judges of the Warc Prize for Social Strategy.

At a London event announcing the winner, Mobbie Nazir, chair of the judging panel and Head of Strategy at We Are Social, observed that "just over the course of the judging period, the social media landscape has changed entirely – it's almost unrecognisable from what it was".

"We've seen the rise of new platforms like Periscope; Snapchat is going from strength to strength – the latest figures put it above Twitter in terms of daily users. We've seen new features being launched: Facebook Live, the growth of online video, new video formats such as 360, vertical formats, Instagram stories."

Alongside these technical developments have been behavioural ones, as users have been shifting away from public social platforms to private messaging ones.

Amidst all this change, however, Nazir discerned signs that social media marketing was growing up. "Some approaches are beginning to establish themselves as a bit more mature," she said. (For more, download Warc's complimentary report: Has social media marketing finally grown up?)

Social is increasingly being used as a broadcast channel, for example, and is moving beyond simply talking to fans. Its strengths in engagement and participation are reaching out to "potential new customers and buyers through these channels".

And while the organic reach that marketers originally sought on social networks is largely a thing of the past thanks to algorithm changes, that is not necessarily a bad thing, Nazir suggested: "As soon as you have to put media spend behind your content for people to see it … business results become far more important."

That's one area where some growing up has still to be done, however, as a panel of Prize judges attested, with "data being used more up-front to help campaign planning, but not at the end of the process to work out whether it works or not".

The "why use social?" question remains to be satisfactorily answered, then – further evidenced by the judges' decision not to present the Analytics Award for use of data to demonstrate effectiveness.

One of the aims of the team behind the Grand Prix winner from Halifax, Making money extra easy, was " to prove that our activity drove the brand of our client".

"Throughout the campaign we used the same models for our objectives and our KPIs, so we made sure that scale was the most important metric," explained Rob Isaacs, content partner at adam&eve/DDB.

In addition to achieving that, three separate surveys – from the Guardian, Twitter and Nielsen – all pointed to significant uplifts, of up to 200% in one instance, in two other key metrics proven to correlate with sales.

Data sourced from Warc