The Evolving Dynamics of Social for Brands

Social communications are now an ever-present pillar of marketing and communication programs for brands. But unlike traditional channels, the approaches brands take to build relationships through social are evolving at a much faster pace. What role does social have in the communications mix, and why? What impact are these efforts having? And how is this affecting how brands operate going forward?

We surveyed 60 of the world’s top brand and agency social marketers at the 2013 Spredfast Social Summit to learn what trends they are seeing and planning for in 2014.

The individual areas of response highlighted three core trends, but there was one overarching takeaway. Social, regardless of size or scope at a brand, is the leading channel for building meaningful relationships with customers and community members.

 

1) Social is the new (relationship) front page 

Social is the new front page

When it comes to information and interaction, email and websites aren’t as important as they once were for consumer engagement - social has taken the lead. Over half of respondents (52 percent) said social is the leading engagement vehicle in their marketing mix while email and websites account for 25 percent and 12 percent, respectively, of brands’ customer engagement strategy. 

This may be indicative of an increased focus on “snackable” and shareable content:  77 percent of respondents stated that shares of social content are the leading success metric for their social efforts. 

 

2) Social is affecting nearly every organization within a company

social-affecting-every-org-large

While Marketing and PR typically have management duties over social, it is affecting nearly everyone within the company. Respondents noted that employees from product management to sales and legal are involved in planning, shaping and/or executing their social media strategy.

True to the market vision of building a social business as researched and discussed by The Altimeter Group, social brands are now making this vision a reality by infusing social into nearly every part of the business.

 

3) Brands need to focus on how social can impact the bottom line  

How brands measure the impact of social

Nearly half of the brands surveyed (47 percent) are focused on how social is driving more meaningful engagements with their customers. However, only seven percent cited impact to increased revenue and sales as the biggest area of impact, and four percent said driving awareness around their products and services was the biggest impact social made. 

Likewise, when asked how brands are measuring success, lead acquisition was the least measured, coming in at only 13 percent, as compared to shares and word of mouth (77 percent), brand sentiment (62 percent), and brand loyalty (53 percent).

 

And while customer support was initially one of the primary objectives of social media for brands, it no longer is the sole focus: only 16 percent of respondents said customer support has been social media’s biggest impact on their brand.

 

Social will, undoubtedly, continue to evolve for brands as we move into 2014. Specific tactics and strategies will mature, but one thing will likely remain constant: it is the primary, most powerful channel for connecting and building relationships with customers.

 

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