MARINA DEL REY, CALIF. – Less than half of the audience here at ThinkLA’s Social Media breakfast raised their hands when they were asked if they find marketing useful in their personal lives.
That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement from the hundreds of marketers, advertisers and other media professionals who filled this seaside banquet hall.
What many here know and fewer will readily admit is that most marketing is junk. That truth persists with little regard for differences in medium, format, audience or data.
As the old and oft-repeated saying goes: half of all the effort and money spent on advertising is wasted, they just don’t know which half.
Social media doesn’t change that scenario so much as it amplifies what out-of-control junk marketing looks like. Any marketing that fails to provide value to a consumer is junk and there’s a lot of it making the rounds on social media.
“The reality is most of us don’t listen because the message doesn’t pertain to us,” says Kim Celestre, senior analyst at Forrester. “The fact is, your audience is getting impatient with the marketing you’re putting out there.”
Affluent, always-connected consumers may be some of the most valuable targets for marketers, but they’re also especially good at ignoring advertising, she adds.
Celestre encourages brands to embrace "utility marketing" – marketing that their customers can use. “You need to demonstrate your brand promise and not just talk about it,” she says.
[Related: 5 Ways to Improve Your Social Media Campaigns ]
Social data can inform utility marketing strategies, but brands must also be sure to look beyond standalone programs, she says. Building a community that promotes utility requires detail and attention to every potential social medium.
As a quick takeaway, Celestre provides five ways brands can offer utility marketing:
- Become a trusted agent and establish the brand as an intermediary between itself and other related brands.
- Solve a customer’s problem and consider how your brand can help solve adjacent, but still relevant needs they may have.
- Get out of the way by helping your customer skip steps during their research and purchase consideration process.
- Automate mundane tasks and determine how your brand can provide immediate value.
- Fulfill a need that the customer doesn’t even know they have.
Of course social media isn’t just for brands, not in the traditional sense at least.
On the publishing side, Mashable’s CMO Stacy Martinet is tasked with commanding every social media platform under the sun, in our pockets, on our wrists or online. “Social media is at the heart of all that we do,” she says.
Mashable has amassed 18 million followers across all of its social channels, which helps explain why she says we’re all in a “continual cycle of marketing” now.
“We only plan for the first mile because we don’t know what the second mile’s going to be,” she says. “You just know you’ve got to be prepared and you have to change the course… We have to be nimble and we have to be ready to fail often.”
The goal and the platform are the most important components of any successful marketing campaign, she says. Understanding that what works on Snapchat is going to be something completely than what works on LinkedIn may sound obvious, but it’s crucial to keep in mind as plans are implemented.
Martinet leaves the audience, more awake and lively at this point, with four ways to find a groove and purpose in a rapidly evolving social media landscape: Think about what will get them thinking. Be picky when picking platforms. Focus on useful data, not big data. And finally, believe her when she says the future is visual storytelling.