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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.

Simplicity Remains Elusive for Social Media Marketing

Despite all the work and investment that has gone into digital media, simplicity seems just as hard as ever to come by for marketers and brands. Indeed part of that is due to the growing number of tools and platforms by which ads reach consumers. But, at the same time, these ads are trying to track down users who increasingly spend more of their time on mobile apps from the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

"When you think about data you can offer up a lot of complexity," says Jonathan Lewis, manager of monetization analytics at Facebook. "We want to surface data but we want to do it for the right purpose ... to simplify your life instead of adding complexity."

Lewis encourages marketers to focus less on likes and more on core metrics that lead to a lift in branding and ultimately sales. "Focusing on just social metrics as an outcome leads you potentially to undesirable outcomes," Lewis says.

"Measuring the digital environment is harder than you might think," Lewis says. A big reason why is because advertisers are rarely disciplined in how they approach a campaign, he adds.

The same rules generally apply for retweets on Twitter. Tim Perzyk, the company's regional head of U.S. research and sales analytics, says marketers are skipping ahead by assuming that a share of voice matters. Retweets, for example, primarily speak to advocacy, he says.

Focus on Scalable Business Objectives

Perzyk and Lewis both spoke about their respective company's responsibility to help every advertiser achieve business objectives that matter most to them. "We're trying to create tools that are as flexible as possible for the different approaches and strategies that you need," Lewis says.

"Across all those objectives, there should be a focus on scale," Lewis says, echoing earlier comments from Johns. "Doing small programs is good, but doing large programs that make a measurable difference for your business is what you should be focusing on."

These experimental or narrow campaign "pet projects" can be fun, but advertisers need to develop campaigns that are repeatable and built on consensus, says Johns. "Innovation still has its place, but it can't be just metastasizing everything we do."

The challenges associated with campaign measurement and other unnecessary complexities are effectively a "forcing function" that motivates Facebook to continue building a better platform, says Lewis. "We can actually evolve as a platform and do the thing that matters most to your business."

So what can those in the industry do today to begin effecting positive changes? Johns, who oversees digital strategy for Hyundai and Kia, admits he doesn't have all the answers but says the most important goal of all is to simplify.

"What are we going to stop doing in order to do these new things?" Johns says. That's the conversation he said he and his colleagues need to start having.


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