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Artisanal Social Media Marketing

Brands want to experiment on new social platforms, which often means doing it by hand

Illustration: Brian Taylor

Social marketers are spoiled. Facebook and Twitter have rolled out tools that enable developers to build all-in-one social marketing dashboards. These dashboards so automate the social ad buying process that a brand’s community manager may never need to see its actual community.

However, newer mobile-centric social apps like Facebook’s Instagram and Twitter’s newly acquired video-posting tool Vine have yet to follow their parent companies’ lead. That means brands must deliver content to these platforms post by post, just like any other user. And that might actually be a good thing, say many social media vets.

“I hate to say this, but our reliance on publishing tools [can be a hindrance]. For the most part, you always see better performance using native publishing platforms out of the gates,” said Chris Tuff, svp, director of earned and emerging media at 22squared.

Why is manual better? Well, it forces marketers to confront how others are using the program. That prevents a brand from completely hijacking a platform to communicate some on-brand message sanitized to the point of emptiness. “Brands need to be acting more and more like people,” Tuff said. “What better way to do that than to force them to use the same mobile experience [as regular users].”

Red Vines took that idea to heart. The American Licorice-owned candy brand does all of its social marketing in-house, said Michael Kelly, the consumer communications manager and social lead. That’s bred a level of internal trust with the company’s brand managers and legal counsel, so that when a new social app hits the scene, Kelly or his counterpart John Dempsey can experiment at will—as happened when Vine launched last month—and figure out what works at the same pace as regular users, endearing the brand to them. “We’ve learned it’s totally acceptable for content not to be Hollywood-polished,” Kelly said.

Not all marketers enjoy that freedom. Bigger brands grapple with legal issues around rights and simply have lots of brands and messages. They need automated dashboards that can store preapproved content publishable at a moment’s notice. They’re also pressured to prove a return on investment, and dashboards help.

“What’s interesting is that with every new tool or platform that comes out, the half-life between the acceptance of using it and having to measure it is shrinking,” said Jordan Bitterman, svp, North America lead for social-mobile-content at Digitas.

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