Contributed by Microsoft Advertising

Microsoft Advertising has announced the results of a global study to help brands get a deeper understanding of social media engagement. Social media is on the rise in Singapore, with nearly half of the country’s leading marketers believing that social media advertising spend will increase this year, according to a recent study. However, the question still begs, is social media marketing really the way of the future?

Interested to find out views from leading marketers around the world, Microsoft Advertising recently conducted a study entitled ‘Social Advertising and Driving Word of Mouth: The Social Advertiser’s View’. Featuring views from 713 social media marketers identified as high spenders across six markets – Singapore, the United States, Canada, Brazil, United Kingdom and France – the study was developed to help marketers understand the benefits, challenges and what lies ahead in social media.

Brands must listen and engage

The study shows that the main reasons that brands in Singapore invest in social media are to manage word of mouth and to enhance their brand, both at 29 percent, followed by reasons to achieve a direct response (25 percent), i.e. for sales purposes or to build traffic on a website. These reasons are consistent with the rest of the globe with an average of 27 percent for word of mouth, 26 percent for branding and 21 percent for a ‘call to action’. Other reasons for investing in social media include customer support and engagement and to garner feedback.

“Social media is a platform for people to communicate with each other, whether it be one-to-one, or one-to-many. It allows brands to engage with their audiences in ways that were previously not possible. However, brands must understand how social media has changed word of mouth communication.”

Bruno Fiorentini Junior

“Social media has the power to make or break a brand, yet it’s important that marketers realise that they cannot what’s being said about them on their social platforms. They must instead listen to what’s being said about their brands, and respond in a way that’s seen by fans as engaging, rather than telling,” said Bruno Fiorentini Junior, General Manager, Microsoft Advertising & Online APAC.

Building a fan base

The study highlighted that virtually all Singaporean marketers surveyed (97 percent) have a presence on at least one social media platform. Interestingly, Singaporean marketers believe that it is equally important to advertise as well as have a presence on social media.

So, why do brands advertise on social media platforms? Although social media engagement is vital to build and strengthen relationships with current fans, it must be complemented with other marketing channels, such as paid advertising to not just assist in engagement but also to attract new consumers. The study revealed that currently 40 percent of online marketing resources in Singapore are spent keeping fans engaged, while half of online advertising resources are spent on attracting new consumers.

It’s not all rosy!

The study did however highlight the major pain points for brands engaging and advertising in social media. Firstly, 60 percent of respondents surveyed mentioned that they were not satisfied with the appropriateness of their fan or follower base. The other two main pain points of social media advertising is that just under half (46 percent) of social media marketers find it too expensive to grow their fan or follower base, and almost two-thirds (62 percent) of the respondents said their fan or follower base has a higher turnover, i.e. people like their page, but leave very soon after.

“Many marketers tend to look at using social media platforms with the highest reach. This has to be one of the biggest mistakes marketers make. Brands need to think about social media marketing in the same way that they look at traditional, and cannot overlook their target audience. It’s vital that brands connect with the right people, with the right messages, using the right platform” said Andrew Pickup, Chief Marketing Officer, Microsoft Asia Pacific.

What does this mean to marketers?

The results show that brands cannot run an ad-hoc social media plan without a proper social media strategy. For a brand to be successful in social media, marketers need to realize a few things: firstly social media is a way to help them achieve their goals, and that it is not a goal itself. Secondly, marketers need to be authentic and understand how to lead conversations with their audiences without dominating them, and lastly, they need to think about how to be involved and which platforms are best used to connect with their target audiences.

“When an advertiser’s objective is to be social, it’s critical to help them understand that no social marketing strategy can succeed if it only runs on one site. Customers are everywhere, and brands need to connect with them wherever they are”.

“To succeed, brands must build a strategy that combines both paid and owned media. When used together as part of a well-planned digital marketing strategy, brands can create greater awareness and drive consumer engagement,” added Bruno Fiorentini Junior.