Radical's Digital Strategist Cian Corbett examines the marketing world's changing relationship with social media

While preparing for a pitch recently, I was recalling my experience in social media and I noted that the first campaigns I conducted were when the industry was calling it “New Media”. Possibly my most hipster moment ever – “I’ve been working in social media since before it was called social media!” At Radical, we’ve enjoyed watching the social aspect of marketing evolve from a “nice to have” into a “have to have” and in some cases, becoming the sole activation of a campaign.

But it took the industry a while to get there. In my early ad agency days, we often joked (or cried) about social’s place on the media plan as a little add-on at the end.

“We’ll have this budget for TV, this for radio, this for press, this for PR, this for digital,  leaving this for social.”

At the time, the pervading and damaging perception that social media was “free” or just for community management and customer service was holding it back from contributing to real business goals. Social had an uphill battle to claim its seat at the marketing table. However, campaign by campaign, the ideas became more daring, the metrics became more robust and the results became more impressive. Brands were becoming more confident in social media’s abilities to bear the responsibility of delivering campaign objectives.

Fast forward to 2017 and you can imagine my delight at social’s rise to prominence within the marketing world. Right now we’re seeing:

  • An increase in Social Advertising (IAB reporting a 133% rise in social advertising in 2016 to reach €114m)
  • Facebook rivalling Google’s share of the advertising pie
  • Shrinking offline budgets

The platforms continued to evolve and, in some cases, surpassed the reach and targeting abilities of their media plan counterparts. And it didn’t stop there. Social began to replace online and offline press as a news source (Instant Articles and Trump’s Twitter account), replace texting with messaging apps (Messenger, Whatsapp and Snapchat), replace cameras with wearables (Spectacles), and now we’re embarking on an age where established broadcasters are being challenged by live social (Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Periscope and Snapchat Live).

However, I feel that’s it’s not just the technology or targeting capabilities that have changed. Consumers’ need for added value, instant gratification and quick response have also changed  – and marketing as we know is changing to keep up. The days of planning a campaign quarter by quarter, a year ahead of time,

now seem archaic. Pre-planning is all well and good, until it restricts your ability to be flexible. Just last week, Jennelle Tilling, Global CMP at KFC, said:

“We need quick pulses – marketing has fundamentally changed from marketing to publishing and the pace and turnaround is so much faster.”

It’s amazing to see the principles that guided early social media now permeating and reshaping marketing as we know it. Creative agility, responsive reflexes and continual consumer dialogue – the foundations of social media – are now critical elements for marketing in 2017. The world of marketing got a taste of the power of social media – and now we’re addicted.