The Future of Social Marketing

by Michelle Salater on January 6, 2012


Let’s start by saying that we love Brian Solis. After all, he’s considered a global thought leader in the field of new media and we, the humble producers of Copy Doodle, are among his followers.

Last week Mr. Solis published a particularly juicy piece on the state of social marketing, adapted from a report from the Pivot Conference, which takes place in New York next fall. The piece contains some insightful facts and figures about how businesses are using social marketing—and how they could do it more effectively.

Here are some highlights with suggestions for how to get on the right side of next year’s trends.

Your Social Marketing in 2012

It’s no secret that the traditional producer / consumer model has shifted since the rise of the Internet. Social consumers are unlike consumers of the past in that they turn to their peer groups (social networks) first when they’re considering a purchase.

Even though most business owners understand this basic concept, it seems they aren’t always clear about the nitty-gritty of social consumption, including the following…

  • Social consumers follow an elliptical, rather than a linear path to make buying decisions. They consider a purchase, do independent research, ask their social network about suggestions, and eventually provide feedback to their own networks for people looking to make similar purchases.
  • Most businesses think they know their social customers…but more than half haven’t asked these customers what they want. A study conducted by IBM found that, while nearly 77% of businesses indicated that they knew their social consumers “very well,” 53% had never actually asked their customers what they wanted from social platforms. Perhaps not surprisingly, the IBM study also discovered a “Perception Gap” between what consumers wanted from businesses on social media and what those businesses assumed their customers wanted.
  • Social consumers span age groups and income levels, but tend to be wealthier. Many business owners assumed most social consumers were in their 30s and 40s, and, while that proved accurate, the IBM study also found significant numbers of consumers both younger and older than that. Perhaps more interesting? The majority of social consumers tend to have incomes on the higher end of the spectrum, with the bulk of households earning $60,000 and above.
  • Businesses cited a number of reasons why they think social marketing hasn’t yet gone mainstream. The top reasons business owners cited were insufficient budgeting, a lack of clarity about the outcomes of social marketing, a lack of understanding about the potential benefits of social marketing, and unclear direction about the direction to take with social. Despite these factors holding back growth, most business leaders agreed that social marketing would go mainstream by 2013.

Taking Charge of Your Social Marketing in 2012

The Brian Solis article (which, again, we highly recommend) ends with a list of actionable steps business owners can take to improve their social marketing outlook in 2012 and beyond. Essentially, the advice boils down to this: it’s time to get to know social.

Start understanding how it works, defining outcomes, and setting a clear plan for how social marketing will contribute to your overall marketing strategy. As the IBM study shows, social customers are out there, and they’re ready and able to spend. The time has come to start giving them what they want.

What do you think the future holds in store for social marketing?

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