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Last week, Blogging Out Loud curated a virtual roundtable on the new normal in marketing. In this second roundtable installment, we speak with our panel of senior executives for an insider’s look into the present and future for social media marketing. The roundtable participants are: natural products and food products pro Cynthia Batterman; advertising and marketing ace Kevin Berman; cable industry marketing expert Joe Felbab; toy industry star Nick Karamanos; and Vertical Marketing Network President and communications strategist Philip Saifer.
Blogging Out Loud: How do you deal with the complicated task of navigating through various online media categories, i.e. blogs, news sites and social media, etc.?
Kevin Berman: It’s hard to keep up. I pick a few favorite sources for information. Outside of that, I try to check out as many sites as I can that I hear of to see how they present their content.
Nick Karamanos: Personally, it comes down to “what information am I looking for, and what form do I want it in?” Professionally, as we look at how we want to connect with folks, it goes back to how we want to balance our PR perspective. It depends on the brand, and the mess that we have, or the conversation we want to create.
Cynthia Batterman: My recommendation is to hire a good agency that has the expertise and the resources and not do it in-house. Let the experts do it. Things are changing too quickly to build up expertise in-house.
BOL: A recent survey by Greenlight reported that 44% of Facebook users never click on ads and sponsored posts. How do you view the value of these ads and the money spent on them? Without viewer involvement, are they more or less valuable than a print ad in a targeted publication or a well-placed outdoor board?
CB: That still means 56% do click through, which is still the majority. Without the click, the consumer still notices the ad and the message gets through. I do think there is still value.
KB: Even without involvement, they should be evaluated as contextually relevant media – just like magazines and OOH. Hopefully, the other 56% does something meaningful with them.
JF: There’s value in creating awareness. To generate sales, you need to generate awareness, be in a customer’s mind.
PS: Facebook advertising is the tip of the iceberg. Evolution can be expected where interactive brand experiences are offered to fans that opt-in. When that occurs, watch out!
BOL: In the past 5 years, has your advertising budget grown or decreased? How much of it has been replaced by social media, and why? Schwinn boldly moved away from a broadcast-based marking plan to a multi-faceted Internet program that includes an online video campaign, a custom bike finder utilizing SocialVibe.com, and relationships with content providers such as Buzzfeed.com. Would you consider a similar step? Is this the wave of the future? Will traditional advertising fall by the wayside?
KB: More and more, funds go toward social media, but the total investment is still very small. Overall, digital budgets have become a much higher priority. We are currently using similar sites in our media plan, but I wouldn’t make such a drastic swing of the pendulum until I proved it could provide a higher ROI, and do so with as much scale as other media.
NK: Certainly our advertising budget has slightly increased, but overall, social media is always a part of the mix. It’s about what works best for your brands. I can see how this could work for certain brands. We’re still very much looking to connect with a variety of consumers in different ways.
JF: We think social is extremely important to understanding our customers. For us, it’s critical not from a marketing standpoint, but from a customer service standpoint.
CB: I still go back to the strategy. What are the goals? Who is the target? Unless you’ve had a drastic change, I wouldn’t do something like Schwinn. It’s important to include all types of media in your brand. Marketers need to communicate when and where consumers are. Until other media types become obsolete, brands need to be everywhere.
PS: As a consumer, I speak to many other consumers who simply say they fast-forward through TV ads with their DVRs. The ads they remember the most seem to be served up online and through peer recommendations. That’s not to say that TV is not uniquely equipped to deliver to a mass audience especially during event broadcasts, but more and more brands are tapping into non-broadcast approaches to communicate and connect with their target audiences.
BOL: How have you restructured your marketing team to utilize social media? Do you outsource professional services? Have you added specialists to your staff? How do they fit into your original structure?
NK: We have a social media team within the company; we also use an agency. It’s helped us a tremendous amount. For example, on Uno we’ve got over 9 million friends on Facebook. Regardless of what culture you’re from, there’s this emotional connection people have, and we’ve been able to have conversations in that space.
JF: I’ve created a Digital Media Group with a director who reports to me. There’s a manager of digital marketing, digital customer care, and a digital IT manager. Currently, all social is being executed by PR. In addition, we’ve hired an outside agency to handle SEO, paid searches and anything related to digital. They’re also doing some of the posts on social, and creating marketing campaigns and PR campaigns we can utilize on social media. A lot of what we do goes beyond posting; it’s responding to customers who are posting. It’s becoming the way our customers communicate with us.
PS: A number of our clients utilize Vertical for social media content, calendar creation and to work with their in-house staff to respond to fan comments. A perfect example is with our Commerce Casino client where we work cohesively with the designated staff on the casino floor for timely social media posts.
BOL: How do you drive a brand’s message from strategy to paid advertising to social media? Who do you think is doing it best?
NK: I think it comes back to having a consistent theme. What is your campaign about and how do you make sure that’s communicated? The Old Spice campaign from a few years ago is an amazing example of how consumers can shape the communications for a brand.
BOL: While social media has helped extend many brands and products, has your brand ever suffered from or been the subject of negative “word of mouth”? Have you felt the need to protect your brand from damaging remarks made via social media?
JF: We figured out we need to be there to understand what consumers are saying before it spreads like wildfire. We need to be there to respond.
KB: I don’t think it’s right to try to hide it. Learning from it and reacting to it the right way is critical.
CB: Social media isn’t something brands should be afraid of. Negative word of mouth can start online whether or not you’re advertising and promoting online. It does reinforce the point that brand transparency is critical. Regardless of whether you’re participating in social media, it’s important for any company to be prepared to handle negativity with a well thought-out crisis and communication plan. The key for me is starting with a strong strategy. If you’re operating your brand with transparency, you can navigate through anything.
NK: It comes back to how you look at your consumers, and if they have something to say. Are you engaging in conversation? To me it’s also about transparency. The best way to deal with consumers is to be transparent. Being part of the process makes the brand stronger. These consumers are absolutely important, so we want to make sure we’re listening to them every chance we can.
Note: Blogging Out Loud will return on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. Happy Independence Day.