Facebook raised over $100 billion with its IPO today, suggesting investors have plenty of faith in social media’s ability to drive results for brands and marketers. With that in mind, Digiday spoke with Peter Kim, managing director of social agency and consultancy Dachis Group, about the changing social media landscape, how brands can make the most of the opportunities it presents, and why data is essential to extracting value from it.

How should brands go about measuring and understanding their social activity?
There are so many different ways to measure success. Or progress, at least. There are elements contained within platforms themselves such as likes and followers, but we find brands get the most insight by tying social into their existing methods of measuring business activities. Some will tie it to metrics like Net Promoter scores, for example, and for the most part, others are looking to understand how social helps them increase things like website traffic or conversions. That’s how we see most companies measuring social well beyond just metrics like follower counts; the more sophisticated marketers are able to do that.

How important is data in understanding social?
It’s critical. If you can measure it, you can manage it. At the beginning, the word of mouth and anecdotal evidence and experience was great, but it’s at the point now where marketers need to show results. Without the measurement piece, the creative and the idea mean nothing. It might not be the most fun stuff, but there’s still so much skepticism out there that it’s critical to show results. Everyday I run into people who find it tough to get budget for social because their companies think it’s for kids.

Why do brands need the services of agencies dedicated exclusively to social?
It depends a lot on CMOs and whether or not they’re comfortable playing integrator. In digital, we’ve seen this: CMOs hiring best-in-breed agencies in different areas like creative and media, and if that’s a preference that’s great. Others just want their agency of record do to all the integration for them; it really depends on the marketer preference. That said, some agencies are far better at social than others. We are often asked to step in and clean up after a traditional agency has taken a swing at social and really messed it up. You have to have a deep understanding of the space from social to technology to strategy. As the space evolves, we’ll see people cross-pollinating and bringing more social expertise to agencies. But some agencies don’t get digital yet, so it will take a while for social to be understood.

What’s your take on recent suggestions that Facebook has been letting brands down?
Facebook is growing so fast. It already has 900 million users, so it is, and will continue to be, a massive opportunity for brands to engage with consumers. That said, I can understand that marketers could come away disappointed if they don’t go in there with a great strategy of how to use it in conjunction with other channels. You’ll be disappointed using it as a one-way vehicle but not if you use it for what it is: a two-way platform. The worst thing that can happen now is if brands look at General Motors pulling its budget from it in the wrong light.

What other big opportunities are you seeing for brands in social?
Increasingly, we’re seeing value in the use of big data and the ability to generate insights from social platforms in order to make meaningful business decisions. For example, looking at things like conversational data and keyword analysis. Instead of just focusing on typical stuff like branded terms and basic sentiment, businesses can cast the net wider and start to understand unspoken user behaviors and opportunities around that. It’s all about understanding and unlocking that data. I was an English major, so when I look at those numbers, I tend to steer away pretty quickly. But marketers are going to have to increasingly understand how to interpret and use that type of information.

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