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Has social media become the wild, wild west for marketers?

Matt Kapko | April 28, 2014
Despite all the work and investment that has gone into social media, simplicity is still elusive for many marketers and brands. Executives from Facebook and Twitter talk about the challenge to make things less complex.

You know things aren't going well when the moderator of a panel asks the audience if anyone understands a word of what was just said by one of his two interviewees. The delivery was deadpan, but it actually underlined the vexing challenges that are making social media all the more complex and confusing for advertisers.

More importantly, the jab accentuated the mood that was taking hold in a banquet hall filled with hundreds of marketers at ThinkLA's Automotive Breakfast earlier this week. The at-times confusing back-and-forth between executives working on analytics at Twitter and Facebook followed a rather critical keynote by Greg Johns, senior vice president and client director of digital strategy at Initiative. There appeared to be little room for grandiosity or empty platitudes at this morning gathering.

"It comes down to what I think is the biggest challenge that we all face as an industry and that is complexity. Collectively over the past 15 years and more, we've done a really good job at making this very complex for all of us," Johns told the audience.

"Across all objectives, there should be a focus on scale. Doing small programs is good, but doing large programs that make a measurable difference for your business is what you should be focusing on." — Jonathan Lewis, Facebook

Programmatic buying and selling of ads, which Johns describes as "this idea, this promise that we will be able to automate most of this complexity out," isn't working out as well as everyone had hoped. "As we are on this learning curve of it, it's actually gotten more complex than simple& It's turning a little bit into the wild, wild west again in terms of the things we're doing."

Cookies and Banner Ads Time-Consuming and Less Useful Data

Not only are cookies and banner ads becoming "less worthwhile to us," Johns says, "it's making the reporting that we spend so much time putting together really become less useful to us." The rush to know all data has manifested itself into what he calls the "80/20 problem" wherein marketers spend most of their time building and compiling data instead of gleaning useful insights from the data.

Although television is more fragmented than ever, the disparate infrastructure of online and social media is still no match for the reigning king of media. "We have to get that focus in place," says Johns. "We have to find our own filter."

Brands and marketers need to create "intricate campaigns that can blow away what you can do on 55-inch screens. Unfortunately I think these are the exception, not the rule in our industry. We just can't scale," he adds.


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