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Why Social Media Ads Need a New Playbook

Posted by Sheila Shayon on February 28, 2012 04:52 PM

It’s a given that social media is de rigueur, but companies can still be better listeners and communicators according to the latest A.T. Kearney Social Media Study.

Parsing the top 50 of Interbrand's list of 100 Best Global Brands, Kearney analysts found that 48 of the top 50 have a Facebook presence, reluctance to include social media as a core factor in customer outreach persists and levels of participation vary widely. Concomitantly, consumer use of online messaging has reached “a staggering quantity,” and the study posits that no FB presence may be preferable to a spotty or irrelevant one.

"The majority of companies we looked at are not moving toward a more interactive use of social media, even as their customers are becoming clearer about their expectation to interact with their brands,” stated Jim Singer, study sponsor and partner in A.T. Kearney's Consumer and Retail Industries practice.

The study focused on four distinct types of posts: personal, consisting of a question or statement not specifically promoting a product; promotional, maybe including a coupon; informative, with product-relevant information; external, referencing off-Facebook content with a link.

Findings include: 94% of companies land visitors on a one-way communication page; 65% on a company-created tab; and 29% on a company-only wall. Furthermore, 38 of the 48 companies with a Facebook page either filter their wall to show company-only posts, or restrict their walls to company posts; 27 companies did not respond to a single customer reply; only Toyota, GE, American Express, and Citi responded to more than 25% of consumer postings.

"Although on the whole, today's consumers are satisfied or even surprised to receive a direct reply from a company, tomorrow's consumers will have much higher expectations," noted Christina Heggie, the A.T. Kearney analyst who led the research.

Overall, consumers "like" personal company posts two and a half times more, on average, than all other company posting types combined. That said, 61% of company posts surveyed were promotional or external and only 13% were personal.

Using Super Bowl XLVI as context, with a U.S. audience estimated at 111 million plus and an average 30-second ad cost of $3.5 million, “a careful review of the commercials demonstrates that many advertisers still view audiences and media as separate and distinct–exactly the opposite of how those audiences see themselves and live their lives,” according to Singer and Heggie's post-Super Bowl analysis for CMO.com.

Out of a total of 75 Super Bowl ads, 13 did not include any website address, Facebook page, or Twitter hashtag. Two exceptions: Coca-Cola's Polar Bears campaign and the new Chevy Sonic.

Coca-Cola previewed the Polar Bears on the web, CokePolarBear.com and CokePolarBowl.com, on Twitter, #GameDayPolarBears, and in a Facebook app allowing users to gift “friends” with free Cokes, tied into USAToday’s ad-o-meter asking fans to vote for their favorite Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad. During the game, the iconic bears were shown watching real-time. Coca-Cola retweets post-game where higher than other hashtags.

General Motors’ Chevy Sonic, LetsDoThis.com promoted an eight-day tie-in competition with two new Chevy Sonics to be awarded to users for a video popularity contest using their social networks. Chevy had its finger on the mouse and when a fan posted on the company’s FB wall, their ads were “the best of all” Chevy responded in less than five minutes with a “Thanks, man!”

The Kearney study shows “that most brands are lagging in their social media conversations and interactions.”

The field is wide open for a smarter playbook on social media ad integration, and CMO concludes, “social media has a long road ahead of it before the lions of Madison Avenue give it a full seat at the table. Not all Super Bowl ads needed a social-media component, of course. But those that did include it could have done better.”


Dan T. United States says:

Interesting findings.  No question that there is huge opportunity but social certainly poses some challenges.  I would completely agree that an irrelevant campaign is worse than no presence at all.

February 28, 2012 10:54 PM #

Achim Muellers Germany says:

Ultimately it's not so much about the tools (ads, social media etc.), but about corporate attitude: Are brands not only willing, but also wishing to listen and engage with their customers? The Greek philosopher Epictetus said a long time ago that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. Does that apply to brands as well?

February 29, 2012 08:02 AM #

SRShayon United States says:

Good question - and social media is certainly putting it squarely in the limelight. It's a real change of position for brands and consumers.

February 29, 2012 09:07 AM #

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