“In This Era Of Trust, Brands Need Highly Targeted Agencies More Than Ever”

“In This Era Of Trust, Brands Need Highly Targeted Agencies More Than Ever”
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B&T‘s on the ground at the Social Media Summit in steamy Bali. We stopped by for a chat with Philip Kitcher, APAC vice president for storytelling/marketing firm Stylehaul. Here, he talks the era of trust and what that means for brands and agencies.

CMOs appear confused about where to invest in their social media strategies. What’s your advice?

Strong, meaningful business results are derived from a well-conceived, more mature approach to social strategies, with access to the right tools and insights. Marketers should aim to rethink basic, short-sighted ‘vanity’ metrics. Likes, comments and shares fail to show the full value that social can bring to multiple phases of the customer journey, beyond top-of-funnel engagement. Rigid and inflexible ROI calculations, which divide revenue by cost alone, only reflect part of social media’s value. And identify a specialist content strategy partner that can provide clear credible understanding, focus and direction. 

What’s been the most exciting thing to happen in social media over the past 12 months?

Live streaming dominated 2017, with 85 per cent of consumers preferring to watch a live video from a brand than read social media updates. With increasing development, familiarity and creative execution, expect more opportunities from live streaming for deeper brand-consumer dialogue.

Major social media brands have shifted focus towards revenue and, in particular, ad sales models. Now that platforms have achieved a large user base and demonstrated long-term viability, the priority on brand partnerships has accelerated, opening up new sources of investment in innovative services and products.

What works and what doesn’t?

Personalisation and local market engagement provides cut-through brand-consumer experiences. Search results are increasingly focused on local businesses, and closing the loop on the path to purchase funnel is also more dependent on interpersonal interactions.

Brands need to produce more meaningful and relatable content to connect with audiences. Consumers are less likely to engage with sponsored or branded content than content from independent sources, such as KOLs. Brand fatigue means that brand teams need to sidestep formulaic social planning. Consumers simply aren’t receptive to misaligned and clumsy, hard-sell messaging that offers no real value or memorable experience.

The erosion of trust in the mainstream has impacted both businesses and consumers. Increasingly, consumers now turn to a familiar source: each other, and highly relatable influencers, who appear more like the personable friend next door than the more traditional and unapproachable, red-carpet superstar.

There’s a massive issue around trust in all forms of media at the moment. What’s your view of that in relation to social media?

Expect an increase in apps that keep user privacy as a top priority, perhaps offering open-source APIs to boost user confidence. While platforms aim to reduce system abuse and provide greater transparency, users are increasingly more vigilant regards trust shortfalls and will expect more proactive commitment to resolving concerns and privacy protection.

Brands need to partner with agencies that deliver highly targeted placement of media, avoiding adjacent content mismatch and the potential for negative and harmful association.

I think with the drop in consumer confidence and trust, we’re also moving toward wider spheres of influence where customer advocates, micro-influencers and engaged employees can all play a role in building trust and meaningful relationships.

How are brands still getting their social media wrong?

Brands are often unrealistic in their goals, and too often lack direction. Ideally invest in activities you can measure. Perhaps adopt a test-and-learn, low-risk approach. Start small, but set simple targets. For example, boosting event attendance with social or reducing customer drop-off by identifying at-risk customers with targeted social listening tools. If working with KOLs, be sure to select based on analytics to ensure a neat fit with the brand, not just views and impressions. And with the rise of social call-out culture, it’s imperative that brand social teams recognise responsibility. Millennial consumers in particular turn to social when they feel wronged and use their networks as a chance to be heard. Brands need a well-drilled response strategy to manage this reality if they’re active on social media.

Who’s a brand that you think is nailing its social media and why?

Eco-conscious Patagonia’s distinct and highly vocal positioning on green politics has united the brand with consumers and deepened its commitment to core mission and values.

Adidas’ Instagram strategy has generated considerable awareness and enthusiasm of both brand and range of products in smart, innovative, and highly relevant ways for its core female following.

Unilever’s social impact program is based on honest, heartfelt and emotionally mature, which resonates well with family consumers.

Wendys stands out has been its ability to create and publish content in a timely manner.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc – what’s your platform of choice?

Instagram launched Stories to compete with Snapchat barely a year ago, but in that short time, Instagram Stories have accrued 250 million daily users. That’s massive when you consider that Snapchat took years to amass 180 million daily active users. Based on sheer engagement numbers posted, Instagram Stories is huge, and given there’s momentum towards more  ‘ephemeral’ video content (short longevity bursts), IG is leading the way for brands to get more messages through the app.

In addition, Instagram’s ‘swipe up to shop’ in tandem with instant ‘see now, buy bow’ shopability promises to radically disrupt the fashion retail business, removing the decades-old time-lag from design catwalk to availability in high street stores.

Looking deep into your crystal ball, what’s the next BIG thing coming for brands in the social media space?

Augmented Reality (AR) may finally make a difference to peoples’ lives. Facebook and Google are both competing in AR, VR headset sales are rising and more AR apps are rolling out. Social media will be a highly popular application for AR, bringing communities together and providing exciting new UI for social interactions.

Expect more apps that keep user privacy as a top priority, perhaps offering open source APIs to boost user confidence. While Facebook, Twitter and YouTube aim to reduce system abuse and provide greater transparency, users are increasingly more vigilant and will expect more proactive efforts from platforms and brands to resolve concerns and protect privacy.

And given that gamers are drawn towards highly developed interactive entertainment, plus the staggering amount of revenue generated from immersive gaming experiences, expect companies to continue to target a more organic, more integrated blend of social media apps and gaming.

AI may still be considered as a future-facing trend, but it’s likely that marketers will start to realise the benefits for brands (creepy, customisable chat bots are already with us). Faster, more focused leverage of behavioural insights, plus visual search engine adaption of machine learning, will enable consumers to search by image versus keyword, which will massively impact e-commerce and online product browsing.

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