Michael nutley social media is changing everything

If there’s one thing that emerges from this edition of Marketing Week’s Digital Strategy supplement, it’s the increasing impact of social media on every aspect of digital marketing.

Whether it’s NFL UK using fan feedback to shape its broadcast output, multinational 3M working with a car detailing blogger to promote its latest car care range, or Evans Cycles using blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr to push its way up Google’s natural search results, it’s clear that the influence of social media on how brands communicate, and the results those communications achieve, is profound.

Equally clear is how difficult it can be to embrace social media. Our survey of industry attitudes to email reveals that 53% of marketers don’t use social sharing tools as part of their marketing campaigns.

At least part of this problem is caused by the silos that have built up around interactive marketing channels. This too shows up in our email survey, with 20% of respondents admitting they do not share data from their email campaigns, and 20% sometimes sharing data, with people in their marketing departments or agencies in charge of other channels.

But one of the key aspects of social media is the way it crosses channel boundaries. Customer service is the reason why most companies first enter the social space, to see who’s complaining about their brand and to do something about it.

However, as Alex Pearmain, head of social media at O2, points out in our search feature, those customer service conversations also have a branding role, since they will crop up in the results of searches for your brand name. In fact, as Google and its smaller rival Bing integrate social media more and more into their search results, what your customers are saying about you becomes more and more a part of your brand messaging. And it’s not just your customers. As Accenture CRM practice lead Sarah Bentley explains in our cover feature, the conversations your staff are having in the social space can be just as important an influence on how your brand is perceived.

So as the influence of social media leaks across marketing channels, the need to think about what you’re doing in those channels in a joined-up way becomes ever more important. One solution is to appoint a digital evangelist to encourage the use of interactive media across the different parts of the business. In the first in our Strategic Play series of features, which each time will take a detailed look at a company’s digital strategy, we talk to 3M UK and Ireland digital marketing manager James Simpson, who holds exactly that role. He works with the marketers for one product range to create case studies that can then be used to show their colleagues in other parts of the company what interactive media can deliver.

And the most important part of his work? “Where I see digital making the biggest impact is in breaking down the business silos,” he says.

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