In the 2nd Edition of Facebook Marketing An Hour a Day, Mari Smith and I talk extensively about the emergence of the “Post-Social Era”. Simply put, the Post-Social Era is marked by the point at which social media turns from being a novelty to being almost a necessary evil. It’s a fancy term for what consumers experience as fatigue – when fun turns to drama, when we find out just how annoying some of our friends really are when they have an open mic, and well after we’ve reconnected with all the friends from long ago with whom we’ve lost touch over the years.
Growth slows, people question the value of the channel, and rumors swirl about how companies are changing their strategy to de-emphasize that which we’ve been conditioned to believe is important.
Does all of that sound familiar? With news last month that General Motors was pulling their ad budget from Facebook, I’d argue that we’ve arrived. Welcome to the Post Social Era.
But rather than focus on the sociological or personal impacts we all may feel from this shift, I thought I’d talk about how this is already beginning to impact decision making in the marketing suite.
Questioning of Purpose – In the first few years of social marketing, it was a struggle for best practices to be acknowledged, much less observed. But lately, we’ve been seeing more and more corporate marketers and agencies question the very reason they’re making increased investments in social marketing. Is it right to post twice a day? Should we focus on the channel less? What should we do?
Critical eye to underperforming assets – We saw a massive expansion of Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts as both services grew rapidly. Marketers didn’t want to be left behind, and certainly did not want to see their competitors earn mindshare among consumers. So in a lot of companies, action took precedence over planning and strategic execution. “The Great Unwinding” of these decisions is taking place now. I mean… what brand really needs 100 Facebook Pages? CMOs know this and are cutting the fat.
Maturing Social Channel Begs for Measurement – As such, what is the framework with which “the fat” is identified? What metrics determine success and/or failure? Fan count on Facebook or Follower count on Twitter is a good, first level way to tell what is working. But low, yet engaging numbers might just identify niche communities that the brand will find important at a later date. Fans, activity, content, top fans, etc. are all worth measuring and understanding to get a full sense of the health and vitality of social media properties you own or manage.
Creative Tension at Facebook, Twitter – Competition is at an all-time high – not just for brands but for social networks themselves. Facebook and Twitter are entering a period of creative tension between user experience, monetization, and advertiser needs. In Facebook’s case, add investor expectations to the fold. What that means for many brands is that it will be tougher over time to bootstrap your way to attention. Optimization tools, advertising, and paid placements will become more and more important.
As these trends begin to take hold, you’ll start to see your right-brained marketing efforts be increasingly marginalized by the efforts of left-brained thinkers. Haven’t you heard? Decision making based on actionable, data-driven intelligence is the new black.
But in all seriousness, your social marketing efforts are going to be better served with a little right-brained and left-brained decision making balance. Little did you know that your accountant or finance professional actually does belong on your social marketing team, and he/she is coming! Heck, maybe you’ll get a data scientist out of the deal. I hear they’re a ton of fun at cocktail parties.
The best marketing organizations know that social is moving squarely in the direction of being a left-brained data play, and thus they are giving data professionals a seat at the decision making table. They’ll combine creative genius with data analysis to beat rivals and get a step ahead in an increasingly competitive game.