Is social media really the most engaging channel or are marketers ‘seduced’ by data?

Social media is the channel of choice for driving brand engagement for over half of marketers, according to a Marketing Week survey, but is this simply because digital channels are easier to measure than traditional advertising?


Marketing Week research examining the definition and key indicators of engagementreveals many marketers champion social media because of the ability to track, measure and adapt messaging on these channels.

The survey of 585 Marketing Week readers reveals 56.1% believe social media drives the best brand engagement. The vast majority (84%) of respondents class a consumer mentioning a brand on social media in a positive way is an indicator of brand engagement, and surprisingly over half (55%) also count negative interactions. Likewise retweets, shares and likes on social media posts are considered a good indicator of engagement for 82% of the survey base.

Looking at other channels, just 22.1% of marketers think TV is best for brand engagement, followed by email (7.2%), mobile (5.2%), outdoor advertising (3.4%) and online display (3.2%), with print advertising at the bottom of the channel list at just 2.6%.

But is this because social media offers immediate and obvious evidence of engagement compared to something like TV which is harder to measure?

Social offers accessible insights

Rob Blackie, director of social at OgilvyOne, says there aren’t many ways brands can measure the impact of TV effectively, whereas insights from social media companies are “free and easy-to-use”.

“Social networks are increasingly making it straightforward to measure the full impact [of advertising], including people who see a campaign [on one device and] convert [to a sale] on a different device,” he explains.

“[Measurement tools on social media] are making it more straightforward to get the revenue, the sales and the leads, depending on the category, than it used to be. That is making social dramatically more effective than it was a few years ago.”

Simon Tunstill, communications director at TV ad body Thinkbox, agress that social media sites encourage “a host of very active, visible and easily measurable engagements” such as likes, shares, clicks, follows and views. But he believes this is “seductive data.”

“Many of the physical engagements that TV provokes take place via other media.”

Simon Tunstill, director of communications, Thinkbox

Tunstill admits “tracking engagement with other media is harder”. He says: “For TV you have to stick cameras in living rooms and on people as they watch TV in cars and in the garden, which we have done, and then you see a world of amazing engagements that you couldn’t make up. You might comment on Twitter [or] like a brand’s Facebook page – so it is important to recognise what made that happen.”

Marketing Week conducted a Twitter poll to gauge whether marketers think social media is truly the most engaging channel, which reveals 56% believe it is, compared to 44% who suggest it is just easier to measure.


Social media’s widening appeal

But it’s not just the data made available through social media that is seducing marketers. Social media sites are also increasing the opportunities for brands to reach consumers as they compete for advertising spend, hence why it’s piquing marketers’ interest.

Instagram is a prime example. Earlier this month it introduced Instagram Stories, which enables users to share all the moments of their day without having to post directly to their profile. This was followed yesterday (15 August) by the launch of an insights tool and a ‘contact’ option for business pages as the Facebook-owned site continues to shape its ecommerce offering.

However, not all brands are enamoured with the tools social media has to offer. Last weekProcter & Gamble admitted that its targeting of specific groups on Facebook went “too far”after discovering this type of advertising did not always lead to the expected sales boost. A US study also reveals that nearly half of CMOs claim social media has a ‘below average’ impact on profitability despite the popularity of the channel for marketers flocking to alternative ways to reach consumers.

READ MORE: Why P&G is moving away from targeted Facebook advertising

OgilvyOne’s Blackie believes social is “much more active than traditional media” and “does a better job of engaging”. This is symptomatic of the second screening effect as viewers are often on their phones and tablets while watching TV.

Focus on effectiveness

But Thinkbox’s Tunstill argues that while evidence of engagement is “nice to have”, it is meaningless if the advertising is not effective.

He says: “It is great when you see someone whistling along to the track in a car ad or checking their legs when an ad for a razor comes on, but if they don’t buy, try or recommend the car or razor it is pointless.

“Sadly engagement has come to mean what’s happening with people’s fingers, not what’s happening inside their brain.”



Article written by Mindi Chahal of Marketing Week.