Social Media – the future of campaign and media planning?

Having reviewed my posts over the last week or so I noticed that I’ve been on a bit of a social media kicker. I’ve been thinking through why this is such a hot topic for me at the moment and arrived at a few conclusions. Firstly, in this difficult economic environment I think its important that marketers consider all advertising mediums. Social media, if done well, can be extremely cost effective.

Secondly, despite working for Ptarmigan Media, a UK based media planning and buying agency as a member of the digital team, I don’t consider myself necessarily tied to a particular advertising medium. My job when working with clients is to not only help them get their product or service out into the marketplace but also choosing the best route to facilitating engagement with clients’ customers and prospects. Purely by luck, all of the new business I have been introduced to recently has demanded that I consider social media as a core part of their campaign.

I have been driven to this logical conclusion through simply considering the most effective way of reaching out to each client audience. Each possesses one or more of the following distinct characteristics:

  • They may be difficult to reach through traditional mediums – purely because of the increasingly fragmented media landscape
  • The product or service taps into a need, interest, hobby or aspiration – not a requirement.
  • Engagement can be high because of the passions aroused by the interest the service or product generates or could facilitate through its use
  • Each client, rather than targeting the mass market is prepared to engage distinct audience segments of like minded individuals.
  • This segmentation of the market allows for relevant and potentially pertinent messages to be delivered to these distinct ‘communities’. Where relevance and pertinency are high, engagement and dialogue often follows.

Of course, this has presented me with an interesting conundrum. Because much of social media is about dialogue and engagement rather than delivering ‘an advert’ I have had to reconsider how the campaign needs to not only be planned, but also from a purely selfish perspective, how we are remunerated as an agency. From the latter perspective, we are asking that clients remunerate us through the payment of a consultancy fee as well as advertising commission. We have had to go down this road because utilising social media is not a simple process of placing an advertisement ‘on’ or ‘offline’ but rather ensuring that the necessary mechanisms are in place to engage with each audience segment, but also help the client develop the strategy to begin this process of engagement.

There are also considerable implications for the client – some good, some a little scary. Because social media campaigns can be highly cost effective advertising spend need not be as great as traditional campaigns – that’s the obvious ‘good’ bit. Internal client infrastructure and staff mindset are however areas that the client needs to pay real attention to. By employing staff with similar interests as your own target audience, engagement can come naturally with customers and prospects. This will help ensure a consistent customer journey, from initial engagement through to ‘conversion’.

The best example I can give is Starbucks. Were I to ask you to describe a Starbucks barrista I would imagine you would come up with something along the following lines:

  • Young and likely well educated.
  • Either fasionable or geekily unfashionable
  • Although they would not likely admit to it they may belong to a distinctly identifiable ‘community’ of their own.
  • Guaranteed to either be active users of social media, own a cell phone or be a Mac user (or a combination of all three).
  • Have career aspirations far beyond what they are currently doing.

Of course, these individuals fit with the Starbucks brand perfectly and absolutely exemplify the Starbucks ‘ideal’ target audience. They are also¬† ‘cool’ enough for many other audience segments to want to be seen or interact with. Another example along a similar vein is of course Apple. Just go to an Apple store and talk to a ‘Genius’ to see what I mean.

I’m finding this evolving media planning landscape an exciting place to be working right now. Of course, I am beginning to wonder if the media planning tag really now continues to fit. Maybe I should start looking for an alternative….

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