Strategic Experimentation

eMarketer released some numbers this week revealing that marketers see 2012 as being the year they move beyond social media experimentation. 37.1% of marketers see it happening in 2012, 14.6% see it happening in 2014 and 5.6% see it happening later than 2015.

The idea of “experimenting” is starting to lose its flavor, particularly because marketers are starting to establish their footing in the social media space. 68.5% said that their increased understanding of the benefits of social media is one factor that’s pushing them beyond social media experimentation. Increased budget allocation toward social media marketing is another reason.

All of this is good news. Social media marketing is becoming more formalized, sophisticated and responsible for achieving business objectives. However, the need to experiment will always be ingrained in social media marketing.

The Need to Experiment Will Never Fade.

This year we saw the rise of social media platforms like Quora, Google+, Pinterest, Empire Avenue and countless others. 2011 was like many years before it. New platforms rose, while others fell. Already established social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube evolved in how users can access them and brands can leverage them.

In this kind of environment experimentation is essential. The only way brands can understand the ins and outs, pros/cons and specific executional needs is to experiment. Social media marketers need to feel the need and have the freedom to play with new tools, create accounts, test and learn and so on in an effort to understand a constantly evolving landscape.

Social media marketing looks very different today than it did one year ago, and it will likely look very different one year from now when we look back on 2012. Platforms are constantly evolving, being created and being destroyed. User attention is fickle, and it shifts from platform to platform quickly. Just look at the very swift downfall of MySpace.

Marketers who fail to experiment will also fail to be at the forefront of the next great marketing opportunity.

Strategic Experimentation

It’s fantastic to see social media marketing start to establish its role within organizations with more definition. Still, marketers need to have the flexibility to explore and try new things.

Be an Anthropologist

Marketers need to try new platforms to see how people are using them. Identify how people share, what degree of connection users have with each other (are they close, personal relationships or more distant), the methods in which people gain and establish influence and so on. 

The point is marketers should understand the differences between platforms and how they are being used. The best way to do this is to log-on and join. Play as a consumer to then execute as a marketer.

Be a Marketer

Never dismiss a platform without looking at it first. At the moment, Facebook is the de facto social media marketing platform of choice, but it wasn’t six years ago. Today, Facebook is pretty saturated with brands, making every brand presence a little less important. What’s the next opportunity to really stand out. Get on new platforms and look at their potential.

Identify marketing opportunities. Can your brand pay for advertising? How does advertising work? How could your brand establish a presence here if it wanted to? What kind of people use the platform? Are they your customers, or could they be?

Every evolution in social media is an opportunity. Some are bigger than others, and some may not be opportunities right away. Experiment to find what will work, what won’t and what has the potential to in the future.

Experimentation Evolves Marketing

Before social media, customer service was relegated to telephones, the store, the mail and eventually email (which is social media in many ways), but today, social media allows us to use platforms like Twitter, Facebook and so on to scale customer service. Marketers can now identify in real-time how customers are responding to their decisions. The effect social media has had on marketing is paramount.

This isn’t going to stop. The only constant is change, and marketers that invest in the tried and true will be successful in the short-term, but the marketers who will be poised for success in the long-term will continue to invest in what works today and experiment with what may work tomorrow.