Gartner's 2013 Social Marketing Survey Finding: Content Creation Fuels Social Marketing

25 March 2013 ID:G00251280

VIEW SUMMARY

Gartner's 2013 U.S. Digital Marketing Spending Survey found that investments in content creation and social marketing totaled 21% of digital marketing budgets. Here we dive deeper into the implications of the content imperative for your social marketing strategy.

Overview

Impacts

  • Forty-seven percent of survey respondents see content creation and curation as the top role of their social marketing teams, often forcing them to outsource.
  • Digital marketers achieving effective social marketing create and curate content that speaks with an authentic voice.

Recommendations

  • Balance outsourced content services with in-house expertise, building internal content creation and curation skills, while utilizing agencies and service providers to scale.
  • Develop a style guide to formalize your brand's voice and values, to clarify rules of engagement and to enforce companywide standards.

Analysis

Gartner's U.S. Digital Marketing Spending Survey, 2013 found that investments in content creation and social marketing totaled 21% of digital marketing budgets. What's more, social marketing and content creation are considered two of the top four digital marketing activities that are important to marketing's success.

The spending survey findings align with our Gartner Social Marketing Survey, 2013, for which we interviewed 50 marketing leaders about their social marketing initiatives (see "Key Findings From U.S. Digital Marketing Spending Survey, 2013"). Not surprisingly, they are focused on content marketing (see Figure 1). It is the grist for the mill, the blood supply for the organism. Without a vibrant and replenishing pipeline of compelling and engaging content, a social marketing program simply fails to happen.

Content includes the text used in blog posts and syndicated messages; images, including infographics, photography, drawings, cartoons and line art; videos, slideshows, podcasts, e-books, white papers, and more. Social marketers create original content and curate third-party content. Here, the goal is to become an authoritative voice for your audiences by creating and curating content with a strong point of view and syndicating it to your social networks.

But becoming a content marketer is a challenge. It is time-consuming, creatively demanding work that moves at the accelerated, unpredictable pace of the social Web. Gartner sees some brands creating their own newsroom-style publishing process to keep pace with social communities (see "Content Marketing Pushes Digital Marketers to Adopt Newsroom Habits"). Others rely heavily on agencies and specialty marketing service providers. Still others remain woefully understaffed. Wherever you are in your social marketing journey, the following will help you make sense of the content imperative.

Figure 1. Impacts and Recommendations for Social Marketing
Figure 1.Impacts and Recommendations for Social Marketing

Source: Gartner (March 2013)

Impacts and Recommendations

Forty-seven percent of survey respondents see content creation and curation as the top role of their social marketing teams, often forcing them to outsource

Social marketing depends on having something to say — something relevant and compelling — many times over virtually every day, across multiple time zones. It's a high bar to set for the average marketing organization, which is often accustomed to longer-lead deadlines that allow deep reflection, testing and infinite review cycles of content assets. What happens when the schedules are compressed from weeks and months to hours and days? Figure 2 illustrates the significance of the content imperative as part of a social marketing program.

Figure 2. Survey Question on Resource Allocation by Function
Figure 2.Survey Question on Resource Allocation by Function

Source: Gartner (March 2013)

In our research, we heard respondents say:

  • It's a challenge to keep the creativity fresh.
  • It's hard to know what will do well, what people will like.
  • It can be difficult to find unique and great content to share.

Most brands can't keep pace with the content creation and curation demands of the social Web. As a consequence, they look to agencies to help. These include content marketing agencies like Brafton and Deep Focus; digital marketing agencies like SapientNitro, Digitas and iCrossing; and dozens of global, national and boutique PR agencies that have retooled to address the changing nature of influence marketing. Figure 3 illustrates the role of content in social marketing outsourcing relationships.

Figure 3. Survey Question on Role of Outsource Partners
Figure 3.Survey Question on Role of Outsource Partners

Source: Gartner (March 2013)

While outsourcing will continue to be instrumental to most social marketing programs, brands must be careful about building external dependencies at the expense of internal competencies. Social marketing in its varied forms is likely to be a cornerstone of your long-term brand engagement strategy. Consequently, it's often important to build at least some of your skills internally, while relying on agencies to scale and to localize to global audiences. As is often the case, self-awareness is crucial here; the balance between internal and external resources depends on your culture, competencies and aspirations as a brand.

While the specific blend of internal and external resources will vary, most companies will lean heavily on agencies and service providers in the early days of a brand publishing program. Whether your longer-term intentions are in-house- or outsource-focused, don't overlook one key hire: an editor in chief or its equivalent to set direction, capture and assimilate knowledge, and act as the liaison to marketing leadership. Brand publishing programs like Intel IQ and American Express OPEN Forum started here. Also, begin with a focused beachhead to build and refine a brand publishing program — a product line, business unit or geography. Once you've perfected a rhythm, this becomes the model for broader expansion through direct hiring, internal appointments or engaging with service providers. The specific blend of internal versus external will depend on your available resources, your maturity as a content marketer, and the strategic intent of your brand publishing program.

Recommendations:

  • Balance outsourced content services with in-house expertise, building content creation and curation competencies, while utilizing agencies and service providers to scale.

Digital marketers achieving effective social marketing create and curate content that speaks with an authentic voice

A lot of traditional marketers make the brand the hero in every story line. But successful social marketers know that this approach will fail in social circles. Here, the expectation is for an authentic voice that places the audience ahead of a brand's commercial interests. It's easier said than done.

We heard respondents say:

  • It's hard to find a tone that resonates with our audience and is consistent with our brand.
  • We were reprimanded by management for casual tone and conversational voice.
  • We locked down employee participation because it didn't reflect our brand values.

Start by translating your value proposition into an information-rich, issues-based platform and a set of story lines. The goal is to develop brand-neutral themes and issues that you advocate for in your content creation, curation and overall social engagement. Ask yourself:

  • What specific set of problems do we solve, and for whom?
  • How do these problems impact the lives of our target audience?
  • What's the broader implication of these problems from a market or societal perspective?
  • What's our unique angle on this problem space? How and why do we see it differently?

Answer these questions, and you'll start seeing your point of view emerge. Translate this point of view into themes and story lines that become your narrative. You'll notice that this forces you into an audience-centric way of thinking, allowing you to empathize rather than proselytize. But beware: An issues-centric platform can draw you closer to your audience, or it can come across as opportunistic and pandering. Ask yourself the following question to help discern the difference:

  • Have we earned the right to claim authority or assert a position on this issue?

Next, formalize your brand's voice and values with a style guide, and don't be afraid to go against convention. Instead of bureaucratic boilerplate, create a style guide with digital style. Make it an animated video. Or turn your policies into an infographic. By "eating your own dog food," you not only demonstrate commitment by walking the talk; you engage your employees with content they actually want to consume! If you think about it, that is the primary goal of social marketing itself.

Recommendations:

  • Translate your brand's value proposition into an issues-centric platform and a set of audience-centric themes and storylines.
  • Develop a style guide to formalize your brand's voice and values, to clarify rules of engagement and to enforce companywide standards.

Evidence

Gartner's U.S. Digital Marketing Spending report is based on a survey of 253 marketers from U.S.-based companies with average revenue of $5.1 billion. Respondents were from six industries: Financial services and insurance, high-tech, manufacturing, media, retail, and healthcare. The survey took place in November and December 2012.

Gartner's social marketing research is based on interviews with 50 large U.S.-based companies with average revenue of $5.1 billion in seven industries: Financial services and insurance, high-tech, manufacturing, consumer products, media, retail, and healthcare.

The survey and interviews took place in November and December 2012.

This research is also informed by interviews with end users, client inquires and vendor briefings.