Why social media is the heart of digital marketing

Eleazar Santos

28 June 2018

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Today’s trending topic is data. Let me rephrase that; today, what’s at stake, is data. Increased media consumption has lead to an undeniable shift towards more measurable, more personal interfaces where we, as marketers, have access not only to declared data, but also to rich data based on behavioural analytics. Rich data allows us to anticipate the interests, needs and wants of our consumer base – but it also complicates the consumer journey. Management of this newly complex consumer journey and reaction to the demand for more personalised, relevant experiences, requires a more innovative approach. For human-centred organisations, the key is social media.

Mark Zuckerberg’s mea culpa before American and European authorities was more than just an appeal for a second chance, it was a catalyst for change – it made us realise that we, as marketers, need to do more to engage with consumers. The prevalence of Facebook worldwide (except in places like China) cannot be understated, and the time people spend on social media is growing (see Global Web Index Social Trends Report for 2018). The status quo, however, can no longer be maintained in the same way. Facebook’s reputation has been damaged in the wake of recent scandals concerning the misuse of personal data and the promotion of fake news. Brands need to play their cards right if they want to thrive and survive in this new environment.

Despite everything, social media is gaining popularity as a search engine for products and servicios. Social media platforms are taking bold steps to encourage would-be consumers to purchase from social brands. Over the last few months we’ve seen top platforms like Instagram and Snapchat launch new features which allow brands to tag products in posts and link to e-commerce sites directly. The only thing missing? The ability to purchase a product without leaving to go somewhere else. Consumers are willing to buy through social media, and the demand from younger consumers, who are more dependent on mobile, is even higher.

social commerce

Social killed the TV star

Instant access and on-demand entertainment is shaping the way people consume media; in this way social media has an advantage over more traditional media outlets like television and print news. Of course, recent scandals may have shaken our confidence, but social media platforms are working to redeem themselves. Facebook’s commitment to cleaning up its act and creating an online environment that is friendlier and less toxic, has been reinforced by the establishment of a Competence Call Centre in Barcelona, the purpose of which is to fight against fake news and offensive content on Facebook’s behalf.

news consumption on social media

For marketers, the most thought-provoking statistics are those relating to the end of linear TV. Time spent watching online TV and streaming makes up an average of 35% of the total time spent watching TV. Big players like Netflix and Amazon are battling for supremacy; both have produced popular original content which has gained recognition from both the public and the entertainment industry. They’ve pushed global telecommunications companies into incorporating entertainment services into their offerings, like Internet, music and streaming services. The changing landscape of the telecommunications industry is further demonstrated by multinational telecommunications providers like Telefonica who have partnered with online streaming service Netflix. Other providers, like AT&T, have taken things to a whole other level with their acquisition of Fox.

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Boundaries between industries are blurring. Telecommunications, television and film, major ecommerce platforms and social media are all competing for the same spot; copying one another’s ideas. Amazon offers Prime Video and Prime Music, Facebook offers Facebook Watch and, most recently, Instagram has come up with its own online streaming platform – Instagram TV. YouTube was king, now there’s a real threat that they’ll be overthrown.

social video

The fact is, social is more popular than Live TV, and social is getting personal. Anyone who owns a smart device can watch their favourite shows whenever and wherever they want, and that content is personalised to suit their interests and behaviours. User profiles are built based on their viewing habits, and in the future their profiles may take into account other behaviours such as friendships, shopping history, news consumption…etc.

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A place of their own

There’s an ongoing conversation around the possibility of an ad-free, paid for version of Facebook. The more we get used to paying for premium membership packages in exchange for better service online, the less crazy the idea sounds. It’s an appealing prospect for users sick of Facebook’s cluttered, advertiser-heavy, feed. In March 2018, eMarketer published figures related to the average ad revenue per user, by company, in the US between 2016 and 2020. The numbers they came up with are not far from what users usually pay for music streaming or online television services.

Nowadays, people are far more concerned with privacy online and digital security. New processes have been introduced by companies working to ensure consent has been obtained in the most ethical way possible. Users, spurred on by their mistrust of social media and big technology brands, are also working proactively to protect themselves online. As a result, segmenting and retargeting has become more complicated.

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The era of blockchain marketing has arrived, and people are beginning to regain control. Dock is one example of a software company taking advantage of this trend by offering people the chance to “connect their profiles, reputations and experiences across the web with privacy and security” through their decentralised, blockchain-powered data exchange. Trust is our most valuable resource, it motivates people to share their information in exchange for a more personalised experience online. At some point, we may even have to pay people for access to their data.

Getting up close and personal

Data is the new oil. It provides us with consumer insights and helps us to enhance the consumer experience and improve business performance in ways that were previously unimaginable. However, data is only useful when we know how to use it.

what data can do for us

This new marketing environment bring with it three major changes:

1. The shift from the sales funnel to the consumer journey: this means we’re now targeting an always-on, multichannel and multi-device consumer.

our interest changes along the way

2.The demand for personal and relevant experiences online: this has compelled brands to create more relevant content, while avoiding algorithmic penalties. This kind of content needs budget behind it as well, so it can be promoted once organic reach has been exhausted.


3.The need to connect several data sources: we have to combine public and contextual data with the valuable and complex information that is already under our control. Often this data is controlled by different departments (e.g. customer care, marketing and communication…etc.).

diverse means

These changes necessitate a new set of digitals skills. We’re living in a world where creatives and data professionals work hand-in-hand. Moreover, the management of huge volumes of information (especially in B2C businesses such as retail, travel, insurance and financial services…etc.) demands the integration of automated marketing solutions, in order to develop individualised consumer journeys which are compelling to different buyer personas. To achieve that automated-yet-human-centric approach, we turn to social.