Is Social Media Over-rated? Is Digital Marketing Out-dated? Is Integration really the big word for 2016?

Lots of people forwarded me this video (for obvious reasons) and there was plenty of discussion about its merits within the agency. As a result, after watching it a few times, I wrote the following POV and also started following Mark on Twitter.

Mark Ritson’s talk, “Why Social Media is Over-rated, Digital Marketing is Out-dated and why integration is the big word for 2016” is more aptly named for the world of soundbites and sub-tweets, rather than the substance and smart thinking it contains.

  • If your view of social media is real-time tweets, published in reaction to something just four minutes after the fact, then yes, it may be over rated. In truth, social media is so much more than brands publishing to shared social networks.
  • If digital marketing is silo’ed within your organization, then yes, it is likely out-dated. The truth is, you don’t need a digital business strategy, you need a business strategy for the digital age.
  • If integration, and holistic media neutral thinking, are key themes for 2016, then we’re happy to have been ahead of the trend.

However, Mark’s talk had three core themes, which I picked out and fully support…nuance and all:

  1. The organic reach for social media content (as exemplified by the “dunk in the dark” tweet he referenced) is almost negligible. And by extension, a brand’s communities on Facebook and Twitter are made up of absurdly low percentages of their actual customers. For us at Tribal, this represents the importance of paid media to ensure brands enjoy the sort of scale they need to make a difference to their businesses. Since the social media platforms became public companies, and as Mark himself goes on to say, this is an advertising medium. If it ever really existed, the free ride for brands is over. Therefore we should use the tried and tested rules of creating advertising.
  1. Because Celebrities and News Media outperform almost all other brands, (most) brands in their current guise are not welcome in social media. This reminded me of the Howard Gossage quote “people don’t read ads—they read what interests them, and sometimes it is an ad.” We are all forced to consider how we can be interesting and compelling for consumers while also driving our businesses forward. This point also reminds us that owned (websites) and shared (social networks) aren’t the only media in town. Borrowing equity from celebrities, publishers and influencers, or forging “all stars” from within the organization, who can create and propagate content on the brand’s behalf has incredible value if you can reach the required scale.
  1. We need to go back to the “old” rules of marketing, answering the key questions of “who is my target,” “what does my brand mean” and “what is my budget” in a world of zero-based budgeting, media neutrality, clear distinction and proper briefings between client and agency, and performance-based compensation. At Tribal, our bias is in digital and our belief is that powerful creative ideas, which stem from a digital or social insight, have a business-changing impact, beyond digital.

Once you get past the headline and into the body copy, you’ll hear Mark Ritson say that if digital and social media works for your business, as it does for some of his clients, you should go all in, but you should let data guide you. Brands have become complacent and lazy in trying new strategies. They have lost sight of what they are trying to achieve and how to measure success. They are scared to fail and therefore scared of learning or of adapting at the speed of culture, technology and consumers. The best brands who see value from social media show a willingness to invent and be different, a willingness to be free from corporate restraint and embrace the true power of social media – not the ability to simply publish content but in creating a network around your brand.

As an agency, we believe in the power of social media as a marketing channel because we’ve done what many others have not or cannot – we have unlocked this potential for our clients.

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