In the not-too-distant past, social felt like a fun experiment – social marketers were free to independently roam the social landscape with little more than the keys to the company Facebook account and a vague mandate to “create buzz,” while the brand and content marketers often existed in a separate sphere – one that might trickle down to social upstarts, but might not.
Even once social teams became more structured, social marketing goals continued to stress growing and engaging social audiences. The content distributed in service of these goals tended to be created strictly for social channels, apart from broader brand content marketing efforts. The whole approach to social was channel and property-first; “community managers” owned social properties like their company’s 16 Facebook pages and 12 Twitter handles, and engaging with the folks who showed up there formed the foundation of the social team’s efforts.
Show Me The Money
But as time went on, this engagement-only, channel-first paradigm lost steam and – perhaps more importantly – priority. After all, it’s still pretty difficult to measure ROI in terms of retweets. Today’s social teams—and particularly tomorrow’s—are asked to keep engaging those social audiences they’ve grown, but also to drive real business impact. And a lot of companies are starting to realize that better content coordination and a unified brand voice across all marketing channels are critical to delivering on the second objective.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the attention of today’s potential customer is no longer a given – your brand’s presence on Twitter isn’t enough to thrill anyone. Engaging, shareable, and actionable content is (and will always be) the price of entry.
This unassailable truth begs the question: why do we build walls to separate our social and content marketers? Social ROI is critically dependent on great content, and great content is social by design.
Sandwiching Social and Content
Every once in a while, a well-organized marketing team gets it right. The most oft-cited example of this is the legendary “Dunk in the Dark” tweet sent out by Oreo’s digital team during the unexpected Super Bowl blackout of 2013. Often heralded as a standout moment for social, the truth often gets lost in the retelling: more than anything, it was a victory for the integration between social and content marketing teams.
These kinds of opportunities admittedly don’t come up every day, but the chances are virtually nonexistent when social and content marketers remain isolated within their silos. Good marketing tells a story, and that story lives in every channel. Forward-thinking companies are making an organizational shift toward convergence, with a focus on creating and delivering effective content with measurable results across every channel.
Content Continues Its Reign
At Adobe, a recent reorganization of the social marketing team was explained this way:
These changes reflect both the evolution of our social media programs to focus more on content marketing, social activations, and paid social as strategic imperatives, as well as our commitment to stay aligned with key business priorities.
I sat down with Cory Edwards, head of Adobe’s Social Business Center of Excellence, to learn more about this shift:
We’ve reduced our focus on the channel- and property-first approach as increasingly it seems that we’re facing the end of organic social. I’m convinced that strong brand-aligned content and experiential activations are the future of social. And those live activations are ultimately about creating powerful content—so it all comes back to that.
We’re certainly not alone. Just ask Adam Dornbusch, head of programming at GoPro:
We’re a hardware company but we’re turning more into a content company. The camera is just the tool to get to content.
And according to Altimeter’s recent State of Social Business report, better integrating social with existing digital marketing programs and developing an integrated digital content strategy were top priorities for 55 percent of survey respondents, up from 26 percent on the former metric in 2013. (The latter wasn’t measured in 2013.) Interestingly, only 36 percent of those surveyed were confident that their social channels were aligned with digital.
Clearly, there’s still work to do.
Nudge The Beast Forward
Part of the challenge is that anything requiring wholesale organizational change tends to be complex and slow-moving, and part of it is the skepticism with which social is still viewed by many leadership teams at top companies. In the same Altimeter report, over a quarter of respondents said getting buy-in from executives was a top priority; only 27 percent reported that executives at the VP/Director level were active on social, with an even more distressing 9 percent reporting participation from C-suite execs.
Organization-wide education about the power of social as a strategic imperative that can impact executives’ priorities is critical. So is realignment of teams to drive a more integrated content marketing strategy. This is not to say there is no distinction between channels or goals when it comes to the type of content needed; after all, Adobe’s Marketing Cloud demand content has necessarily different aims from our thought leadership and awareness content.
I don’t know that I see a time in the near future where there is one totally integrated content team that sits across all business functions. What I do see, though, and what we’re pushing toward, is cross-functional coordination between content teams focused on different objectives. So teams more focused on thought leadership and awareness content form a sort of virtual content council with teams more focused on demand content, but each maintains specialized expertise in the channels where they distribute this content.
If You Remember Nothing Else
As your organization looks ahead to this integrated social world, keep these 4 tips in mind:
- Hire for social with an eye toward content strategists and marketers who deeply get social, but also understand the importance of coordination across channels. You’ll also want to hire people for social with a specific expertise in paid advertising, but that’s a whole article onto itself.
- Look for opportunities to create integration between social and other brand/content marketing teams to ensure you’re distributing the best social content that is aligned with brand messaging and key business objectives.
- Make educating your workforce and your executives about the value of an integrated social strategy a priority.
- Provide your team with the integrated marketing tools and technology they’ll need to collaborate across roles and functions.
Jordan Enright-Schulz is the product marketing manager for Adobe Social.
Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.