Direct and Social Media Marketing in 2014

By Christie Barakat 

content marketingThe Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing by Econsultancy (in association with Adobe) forecasts the year’s digital trends.

In the 2013 forward, Adobe’s former Senior Director of EMEA Marketing, Neil Morgan, writes, “the briefing will help to debunk some of the myths that continually surround marketing around our ability to measure and prove the value of everything we do.”

According to the briefing, this year’s most significant trend was the continued emergence of content marketing as a standalone discipline, making 2013 the “year of content.”

Respondents were asked to prioritize their digital-related media opportunities using terms like conversion rates, mobile optimization, social media engagement, targeting & personalization, and connected tv.

Over three quarters of the 700 survey respondents believed marketing would be more measurable this year but less than a fifth thought they had the marketing technology to succeed. And while marketers still cite social media as a high priority, the number that describe it as an “exciting” digital opportunity fell by more than 30% since last year.

Regarding the waning enthusiasm for social media engagement, Emarketer speculated:

This may be a sign that companies understand social media’s potential value in engaging customers and generating leads, but are having trouble developing effective methods of measuring return on investment. It seems that as the newness of social media wears off, so too does marketer enthusiasm for the practice. The report found that 35% of respondents thought social media presented one of the most exciting digital opportunities in 2013, a significant drop from the 54% who said the same in 2012. But excitement levels for social media were still high, and trailed only one other category: mobile optimization, which was named by 43% of respondents.

Writing for Business Insider, Ira Kalb from USC Marshall’s School of Business, admits, “the center of gravity in the marketing universe seems to have shifted toward the Internet and, more recently, social media and mobile devices.”

Kalb explains “how to do direct marketing that’s not annoying” and provides examples of direct marketing tools that in his view are still at the top of the strategy hierarchy. According to Kalb, successful marketers “develop brand relationships and sell products.” Indeed, Direct Marketing produced $2.05 trillion in sales in 2012, or roughly 8.7% of US GDP.

The common sense notion that direct and social media marketing must work in tandem to reach overall objectives runs contrary to what many in the industry still consider mutually exclusive domains. But there is no denying the omnipresence of social media or that consumers are weary of traditional marketing strategies.

Consumers, not marketers, have more control over the flow of information and care more about how their social graph ranks products and services than how Google ranks them. Consider:

  • 25% of search results for the world’s top 20 brands are links to user-generated content.
  • 35% of bloggers post opinions about products and brands.
  • 78% of consumer trust peer recommendations. Only 14% trust advertisements.

Marketing consultant, Ruth Stevens, says direct marketing messages are media-neutral—in that they can be delivered anywhere—and social media represent an ideal direct marketing medium.

Facebook and Twitter are offering more sophisticated forms of ad targeting, a long-time staple of direct marketing. And Facebook itself is a sizable user of direct mail. Social media support Stevens’ four defining elements of direct marketing:

  • Being delivered to a carefully targeted audience
  • Containing a motivational offer, a call to action and a response vehicle
  • Collecting the responses in a database
  • Expecting the results to deliver a measurable ROI

Maximize Social Business contributor, Jessica Rogers, suggests “20 Simple Ways to Integrate Social Media with Traditional Marketing Practices.” They include optimizing a website for mobile and creating an app, video content and customer service channels via social media.

Additional findings from the 2013 Econsultancy report include:

  • Compared to a year ago, social media engagement is lower down the list of priorities as observed by both client-side and agency respondents.
  • Mobile optimisation is the most exciting digital marketing opportunity for 2013, according to companies surveyed.
  • Only four in 10 client-side respondents consider that using ‘offline data to optimise the online experience’ or ‘online data to optimise the offline experience’ will be ‘very important’ for their organisations over the next few years.

The Econsultancy study included both B2B and B2C marketers of whom 39% cited content marketing and optimizing conversion rates as top priorities. According to the survey, social media analytics and video marketing plummeted last year, which raises interesting questions about social media marketing for 2014.

15% of social media reviews will be fake by 2014

A study by Gartner found brands are increasingly turning to paying for positive reviews, ‘Likes’ and followers on popular social networking sites and by 2014, the research firm estimates that over one in ten of these will be fake.

Econsultancy marks 2013 the end of the digital beginning as companies reshape and retool to combine traditional (offline) and digital (online), acknowledging the fact that digital marketing does not exist in isolation but is part of a bigger whole. “If the millions of ‘Likes’ and followers some of them have attracted are any indication, social media could be the foundation of a happy marriage between brands and consumers. But under the surface, this relationship may not be as solid as it appears.”

They cite several reasons why marketers rely on flawed metrics:

Econsultancy says marketers are too dependent on companies like Facebook and Twitter and should take their analysis to the next level by correlating performance against important business KPIs instead of relying on limited and often flawed metrics. “…the only ones fooled by online love-buying are the marketers engaging in the tactic.”

A timely case in point: American wireless carrier AT&T won the battle for the most ‘likeable’ ads during the summer Olympics this year, but in the past two year it has ranked in last place for customer satisfaction. The lesson: likeable ads, lots of followers and more ‘Likes’ than you can count in a year are nice, but when it comes to earning an individual’s business and keeping it, trust, respect and satisfaction are far more important. And you can’t purchase those.

Writing for Econsultancy, Andrew Davies recently asked if 2014 will be “the year content marketing finally grows up?” Over the next few months the company is preparing for its inaugural Digital Outlook 2014.