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Why Using Social Media is a Thing of the Past

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Shama Hyder, CEO of Zen Media scrolls through her phone on social media in Dallas, Texas. (Cooper Neill for Cosomopolitan)Cooper Neill for Cosomopolitan

Using social media to promote and advertise for brands used to be a forward-thinking strategy. Social was the future, and early adopters were rewarded for jumping on the bandwagon when they did.

In the good ole’ days of early social media marketing, it made sense to “use” digital advertising in order to reach “wired” consumers. It also made sense to “use” social media to reach consumers who were discovering social media platforms. Back then, before widespread adoption of the internet and the advent of billions of Facebook users — that is, back in the days of interruptive advertising where campaign lifecycles and consumers’ journeys could be clearly identified, neatly segmented, and accurately assessed — it made sense, and was frankly quite easy, to “use” social media to reach consumers.

But to thrive in the age of the connected consumer, marketers need to understand why “using” social media is a thing of the past. Today, it’s important to shift from a mindset of “using” social media to a mindset of adapting and thriving in an ecosystem where a highly connected, social, empowered consumer is now the norm, and traditional econometrics and data are no longer adequate to measure and track the success of content and campaigns.

Social media is a shrinking piece of a much bigger digital pie that requires rethinking consumer’s sociality, and relationship to brands.

Consider that 77 percent of marketers rely on at least one dedicated social media platform, but less than half generate ROI from this strategy. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Millennials and Gen Z are annoyed over brands targeting their social media feeds and in response, a third of them have permanently deleted their Facebook account.

What’s more, social platforms are changing the way they operate, making it harder for brands to show up to the audience they want without paying to do so. Twitter deleted more than 70 million suspicious accounts in less than 60 days, and Instagram switched to a non-chronological algorithm that has limited the appearance of organic branded content in users’ feeds. With this in mind, marketers need to redefine their understanding of “social” to extend beyond social media.

To clarify, it’s not that consumers are becoming less “social,” it’s just that this sociality — which can be understood as digitally-enabled “connectivity” to other consumers and to brands — appears to be increasingly migrating from social media platforms onto aggregation, social, mobilization, and learning platforms. (Think, for example, of how “social” consumers are on sites like eBay or Amazon in terms of sharing product reviews and interacting directly with sellers and other consumers.) Said differently, though the number of consumers who can be reached through social media channels may be shrinking, the digitally-enabled “sociality” that characterizes today’s connected consumer is expanding.  

ROI is an insufficient metric for assessing success that requires rethinking the nature of the consumer journey.  

The expansion of today’s connected consumer across multiple digital touchpoints means that ROI is no longer a reliable default for accurately assessing campaign success. Marketers need to move beyond ROI and adopt metrics that are more sensitive to the complexity, ambiguity, and dynamism of the consumer journey correspondent to the category in question. Without this sort of approach, it’s impossible for brands to identify their particular challenges and to develop targeted strategies for overcoming them.

Integrating social data and metrics with other KPI’s affords brands much greater visibility into the customer journey across multiple channels and digital touchpoints. In order to integrate social media strategies with other critical marketing practices — web analytics, CRM, and so forth — marketers must cease to view social media platforms as simply a marketing channel and leverage it instead as one prong of a larger strategy and source of customer insight.

Metrics for measuring a campaign’s success require rethinking what “value” means in the digital age.

Determining if, how, why, and under what conditions a particular marketing strategy or campaign has value to a consumer requires rethinking what value means in the digital age. It also requires equally nuanced and sophisticated metrics for measuring this value. Depending on the variables, value can mean many different things — things that are invisible from the limited perspective of ROI. By adopting more nuanced and sophisticated metrics for discerning the subtle shades of value that nonetheless represent significant points of leverage, marketers can tune their content accordingly.

While the concept of “using” social media no longer makes sense, the expanding sociality of today’s connected consumer offers new opportunities for defining, measuring, generating, and reaping value in ways that will continue to advance the digital age and benefit brands and consumers alike.    

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