|'Boys on a Bench', and early example of powerful content. The 1969 ad showed African-American and white boys sharing a Coke on a previously segregated park bench. Photo: The Coca-Cola Company|
Scott Monty's resignation on May 19th as head of Ford's social media team sparked a useful reflection on the state of the social media industry. For starters, you should read his blog. It's a classy way to say goodbye.
His resignation has prompted a trio of thoughtful posts by some of social's greatest thinkers. These are all must reads for anyone who touches digital in an organization or has a "C" in front of their title.
In Social Media Today, Frank Eliason traces the evolution of social media within organizations, and laments what it has meant for quality.
In Forbes, Shel Israel catalogues the mostly goings of social's early corporate pioneers. To Shel, Scott's departure from Ford is merely the last in a wagon train of folks who believed that social could revolutionize how companies talk to their consumers but who have now moved on to other roles. In Shel's view, "social media strategists are the beautiful babies being washed down the drains of companies who have otherwise fouled their bath water."
Finally, my friend Richard Binhammer calls on business to completely rethink how they are organized and what their social efforts can achieve.
And in a post-Ford interview in AdWeek, Scott himself voiced his concerns about the future of social within a marketing organization.
So is social media dying? No, it's just experiencing some of the awkward growing pains of being a teenager. But it does need to grow up faster.
You need great content: As anyone who has followed my work at Coca-Cola knows, I am a staunch believer that great, shareable, impactful content needs to be at the core of any digital strategy. If a consumer gives you five minutes (or, even better, ten minutes) of their time, they need to get something back. Whether you make them laugh, make them say "aww", give them a great recipe for the holidays, or a fun summer party idea, your content has to be good and it has to be useful. One of the smartest people I know, Jonathan Mildenhall, who was just tapped to be the next CMO of Airbnb, once gave my team a deep dive on creating this type of content. The title: #workthatmatters.
|Graphic: #WorkThatMatters. Fast Company/Jonathan Mildenhall|
Focus on all of your audiences: Over the last four years, I spent time with social media leaders at most big brands in America. The lion's share of planning and attention goes to reaching mass audiences of consumers. But if you go one click down, there are reporters who cover your business, investors, job seekers, influential core target groups and many, many more. All of these folks can be reached and influenced through social outreach. At Coke, for example, we found that LinkedIn is a powerful channel for reaching opinion leaders and investors with long-form content. We use Twitter extensively to manage conversations with journalists. The best social strategies think about how all of your audiences use social media.
Use data wisely: Today in my Facebook feed I've been pitched ads for hair care products, politicians in Maine (where I don't live), a start up called Single Grain (this one is a real puzzler), and a promoted article on the impending U.S. whiskey shortage (which was spot on targeting; I read it immediately). Social media is ushering in a golden age where brands can put great content with the right message in front of exactly the right person at the right time. This is unprecedented in marketing history, and should make the user experience better. But only if data and targeting are used wisely.
At Coke, we constantly look at performance data to optimize our social plans to create content we know audiences want to see. Is it perfect? No, but it's getting better all the time. And as a bonus, our organic reach numbers are still significantly higher than has been reported in the media. This is because even with algorithm changes, your content - if it's good enough - will still reach a large number of people.
Richard Binhammer is right when he says that huge organizational shifts are coming. Many organizations are not equipped to fully leverage social media's full potential. This includes legacy corporate structures that don't allow for the cross-functional nature of social media, the muscle to move fast (to capitalize quickly on social innovation), a commitment to always be transparent (this LinkedIn post by Target's Jeff Jones is an example of transparency done well), sophisticated social analytics capability, and a lack of a digital-first culture.
I don't think marketing's interest in social media is a sign that social is on the ropes. When more people across the organization take an interest in something, and bring creativity, cash, and enthusiasm to the table, that's a good thing. This is a logical maturation path for social in the enterprise.
Now is the time for social media strategists to rise up and take their rightful place at the CMO's table.
UPDATE: For more information on 'Boys on a Bench' and #WorkThatMatters, check out Jonathan Mildenhall's great blog post on Coca-Cola Journey here.