For smart practioners, they know the days of social media operating on its own separate from other marketing, communications, and customer service functions are over. Back in November, I declared the age of the social media director was also over. My point of that post was simple: social must be integrated into every aspect of a business to truly succeed.
So here we are, 2014. I won’t bore you with prediction posts or prognostication on “what’s next.” That’s been done a thousand times this week and it’s a bit of a bore to me. Instead, I want to ask the question: are we any closer to social integration in 2014?
The answer depends on the brand, organization or the agency.
“People want ownership and they look down on social and don’t think it belongs in our online display or even our television ads. They don’t want to integrate social – they want to own and drive their own piece of it. That just doesn’t work.”
Having just gone through the holiday season, I had time to catch up with colleagues from across the globe and I asked them that question. I asked them, especially those like me who were early in the adoption process for big brands, how the struggle (and it is – everyday) to integrate is going. The answers were not surprising and, in some ways, both encouraging and discouraging.
I had one colleague tell me how she continues to struggle to get others in her marketing department to understand that social is just one piece of reaching out to customers. At her brand, ad teams, online marketing, and branded marketing teams still treat social marketing as a “Snap-in tool.”
“I really believed we were on the cusp of putting it all together,” she said. “But there’s still a siloed mentality here. People want ownership and they look down on social and don’t think it belongs in our online display or even our television ads. They don’t want to integrate social – they want to own and drive their own piece of it. That just doesn’t work.”
My friend works for a consumer package goods company and her story is not uncommon. Many marketing team members at these big brands pledge integration but truly just want a piece of social that they can claim credit for. It’s insidious and was repeated by another friend in a B2B company.
“Our ad agency has been the AOR for over 14 years,” he told me. “They practically tell us what to do, not the other way around. When I came on board a year ago, they tried to do it to me and I fought back. So now, they go around me to executives pitching social ideas even though they’re not driving social. It’s a problem and I’m ready to leave over it.”
Another friend, who owns social support for a well-known company, said he’s actually seeing some good progress toward integrating with his marketing department. For him, it’s slow and steady progress.
“I was frustrated at first because we were the non-revenue social team,” he said. “But now that they know their marketing programs are supported by my team, they’ve been much better and work with me. We have a long way to go but I’m optimistic we’ll get there.”
Of the 12 social marketing directors, managers, and process owners I asked this question, just four said they’re in a good place. The rest continue to be frustrated. How much of their frustration is a lack of effort by their partners and how much is they themselves unable to make the case yet?
“For a long time I beat myself up over it,” said a colleague. “I really thought I was failing and that I was the issue. But then I realized, no, it wasn’t me. I did everything I could to educate and engage other people so they understood why integration benefited our company. In the end, our leadership just isn’t willing to force it and to make a stand and tell everyone else to play nice. That’ disappointing.”
Clearly, some brands are being extremely successful at integrating. You’re seeing evidence of this with great campaigns like the Anchorman 2 release – granted that’s an entertainment property. There, you see the company, Paramount Pictures, understanding that they needed to integrate all channels to engage moviegoers on the web, in mobile, in social and in traditional media outside of advertising. But very few brands are reaching this level of integration.
If you’re a veracious reader like I am, you’ve read the posts about “how to integrate” and what it takes to make the case. Still, many of us are making the case and it’s falling on deaf ears. Some CMOs, VPs and other in leadership just refuse to learn, understand and default to what they know versus what they should know.
“I’ve done this at two brands now,” a close colleague said. “What I’ve learned is that you can’t make someone drink from the well if they insist on continuing to walk through the desert. Some will listen, drink and be refreshed. Others will ignore it, continue their walk and die somewhere out there. If you’re in that situation, refresh your resume and look for a new job.”
That’s an ominous outlook but I certainly can see his point. The question remains: how long is enough time to allow for integration? I guess that depends how much you like your company or organization and how much time you’re willing to wait for it to happen.
“The good news for all of us is there are brands who are hiring digitally-focused CMOs, CEOs and others,” a colleague told me. “There are lots of jobs out there and our skills – especially those who have been doing this since 2005-06 – are in demand to help integrate social into the rest of the organization. My advice: find those jobs and work there.”
What do you think?