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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Using research to prove Facebook's effectiveness

When General Motors pulled its ad dollars from Facebook ahead of its recent IPO, it set off a debate about the value of social media advertising. Fanning the flames of discontent, WPP’s CEO Martin Sorrell also said recently that Facebook was good for branding opportunities, but not much more.

Luca Benini, MD Europe for social marketing platform Buddy Media, is unfazed by the naysayers. “Brands and agencies understand the importance of social media marketing,” he says, “but they often cite the need for the right tools to implement their strategies and the right metrics to evaluate their effectiveness.

“They have largely been designing their social marketing programs on faith, without the appropriate feedback loop to ensure their strategies are maximising returns. Research can and will play a big part in helping to change the way CMOs think about social media and the return they get from it. Allowing brands to listen, engage, gain insight, publish, advertise and measure social marketing programmes in this way will ensure that this is the case.”

“Research can and will play a big part in helping to change the way CMOs think about social media and the return they get from it”

‘This way’ is the way envisaged by Salesforce, the cloud computing company, when it bid $689m for Buddy Media. The acquisition is expected to be completed before the end of October. “The idea behind the deal is simple,” says Benini, a former VP and commercial director at ComScore Europe, who has also served as head of consumer research for Europe at Yahoo. “By combining Buddy Media with the rest of Salesforce’s products, including Radian6, the social media listening platform, we will be able to deliver the first comprehensive social marketing cloud. We know this is what CMOs need to make the right decisions and really understand what sites like Facebook are all about.”

Buddy has already had some success in convincing brands about the importance of investing in social. Key clients include Ford, Hewlett Packard and L’Oreal and the firm is also the preferred platform for all Facebook media buying for WPP-owned media agencies including Mindshare, Maxus, MEC and MediaCom, who spend a cumulative $200m a year on Facebook.

Benini says: “We’re at this evolution now where brand content is replacing marketing and media to a certain extent. So it makes sense that investment should now be about optimising social ads and not just having them there as an alert or story. The best social ads are the ones where you reach out to consumers with something they tell you they want and then you act on what they say. Once you’ve tapped into that sentiment, the world is your oyster.

“New technology will be a great enabler of this, offering comprehensive tracking along the way, but it also relies on the brand realising that this is a real-time medium and needs to be treated as such. You can have all the data in the world, but it won’t mean anything if you don’t get involved directly yourself.”

Benini points to Ford as a counterpoint to GM – an example of an automotive firm who did see return on Facebook investment in terms of new engagement and brand advocacy. “Social isn’t necessarily about profits,” he says, “but it is all about stakeholder engagement, and keeping customers and never letting go of their relationship with your brand.”

“The approach that advertisers should take is to think of social as going on a journey with a customer and taking lessons every step along the way, from the initial soft metrics to understanding brand equity, stakeholder value and finally – maybe – the return of proven expenditure at the end,” Benini says. “If you can’t monetise a TV ad immediately, why would you expect social to do this?”

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