The Day-by-Day Revolution: Insights from The Council’s Program on Measuring and Monetizing Social Media
Think you’ve heard it all about social media? Last week, The Social Media Society and The Council of Public Relations Firms presented a program entitled, “Igniting Opportunities: Measuring and Monetizing Social Media,” hosted by my law firm, Davis & Gilbert. This eye-opening program revealed that the pace of change continues to accelerate, and that more than ever, brands and their marketing communications firms risk falling radically behind just by pursuing business as usual. In this blog posting, I evoke some of the key points and memorable moments.
First and foremost, the program’s speakers and participants agreed that firms will have to develop proprietary tools for gathering and analyzing user data if they are to profit and grow in the social media arena. Ownership of this valuable intellectual property – both the technology and the data itself – will prove a key point of contention between agencies and their clients. Firms must understand the current regulatory trends to protect user data, incorporating what the FTC has dubbed “privacy by design” into their strategic models. As bloggers and other social media content providers assume more prominence, clients must integrate their material into marketing in compliance with the FTC’s Endorsement Guidelines. These and other issues appeared in Davis & Gilbert’s white paper delivered at the event, entitled, “Social Media Marketing and Contracting Best Practices.”
The program also included a freewheeling discussion making sense of the fundamental changes hitting the industry. In his keynote address, Adam Lavelle, chief strategy officer for iCrossing, stated that studying social media is not like studying the Roman Empire, a defunct civilization; rather it is like studying American history – a history always in progress and still being written. Lavelle emphasized that social media is not a segregated channel, but an “overlay,” encompassing all aspects of the industry.
Presenter Chris Perry, who heads Weber Shandwick’s Digital Practice, stressed that social media remains an umbrella term, encompassing everything from wikis to Twitter to blogs. Rob Key, CEO of Converseon, also drove home this point in citing his dislike of the term “social media.” Key stressed that he longed for the day when we simply refer to “media,” much the same way we have now use the term “light bulb” and no longer refer to the modern convenience as the “electric light bulb.”
A number of participants emphasized the shift from narrative storyteller to data analysis. A review of WPP’s 2011 annual report confirms this. As the report states, the company’s goal is to “increase the share of more measurable marketing services – such as Consumer Insight and direct, digital and interactive – to be more than 50% of revenues, with a focus on digital and consumer insight, data analytics and the application of new technology.”
With many acknowledging this shift from narrative to data, attendees pondered the requisite skills and experience we’ll need from talent in the future. Public relations stars have long received training solely as “wordsmiths and storytellers.” Presenters agreed that tomorrow’s talent will also come from the world of software development and statistical analysis. Firms will focus on serving the end goal of targeted marketing through expertise in areas like web analytics, marketing measurement and automation technology. In fact, Rob Key foresees a shift away from firms that provide principally community management and social monitoring to firms able to provide social insight and analytics. He put forth the bold notion that the CMO of tomorrow will be a data analyst – an idea that might have seemed alien just a few short years ago.
One might object: Isn’t content still “king?” The truth may lie in a more integrated approach. Crystalyn Stuart of 5Loom stated that when she looks for talent for her social media firm, she looks for candidates who can deliver the “three pillars of social media”: art, science and business. Other social media and PR firms indicated that they are embracing this notion of versatility, training employees by rotating them through different disciplines – creative, analytics, etc. – in order to create a nimble workforce with 2012 skills.
Lavelle may have summed up the ever-shifting social media landscape best not with a statement, but with a question. Who will be the marketers of the future? Will Mad Men meet Math Men and form a new generation of Mad Scientists?
The answer, like American history, will evolve day by day.