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Social media marketing: The rise of managed service providers

One of the most significant developments in advertising over recent years has been the shift from traditional print and display ads to more agile digital marketing platforms. Savvy brandslooking to connect with their audiences in a more personal and meaningful way have eagerly embraced fresh opportunities to engage over social media via targeted ads, video and influencers.

Facebook remains the primary vehicle for this kind of engagement, commanding top-dollar for advertising solutions that have proven very reliable for brands and marketers. But as has been seen recently with the EU’s GDPR requirements and the events surrounding Cambridge Analytica, even with Facebook’s gravitational pull, the social media landscape remains complex and fast moving. This keeps the goal of audience targeting elusive. As a result, making sure that
companies’ advertising expenditure is matched by the anticipated return on investment (ROI), even with Facebook’s
solutions in the picture, remains a complex task.

In order for a company to advertise effectively across all relevant social media platforms, most now turn to a new breed of vendors whose platforms and software help brands manage their audience goals across the entire social media landscape. These vendors, in effect managed service providers, offer both true multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and custom-built solutions that in theory allow marketers to keep ahead of changes in the market and audiences.

Engaging a Target Audience

While most brands are promoting their products and services through at least one social network, it does not necessarily follow that they are optimising available opportunities or achieving a healthy ROI. The most effective way to reach customers is to use social data to generate content that is relevant to them. Put simply, customers are more likely to engage with messages that have been tailored specifically for them. Social data can also be used to improve lead
generation from a company’s website, giving social data a bigger part to play in other channel marketing activities.

While it is great to have more options in the marketing pot, the sheer breadth of choice can be overwhelming. Most marketers will see which platform best matches their audience profile and will experiment to see how ads perform, from an ROI perspective, before committing to a big spend. Advertisers’ biggest challenge is engaging their prospects for long enough to influence them. With the average lifespan of a Facebook post just a few hours and tweets a matter of minutes, it is a fast-moving medium.

GDPR and Rising Ad Costs

In a post-GDPR world, Facebook could get a boost from advertisers looking for a compliant source of third-party data. But with the cost of advertising on the up, the average price per ad rose 49 percent in Q1, according to Facebook’s
own figures, it is not a cheap route. And, if customers do end up sharing less data with the platform, targeting could become trickier and more expensive.

For example, big spenders like Adidas are reviewing their Facebook commitments and looking for new approaches to help drive business growth, rather than booking ads based on Facebook’s own metrics.

Yet the marketers who leverage all relevant social media networks to inform targeted campaigns can reach millions of potential customers. Which is why managed providers are winning fans, as they drive usage and provide a cost-effective way of accessing target audiences across platforms.

Planning For a Fast Moving Future

However, not all managed service providers are created equal. Custom-made solutions have traditionally been considered the gold standard, as they are specifically designed for the needs of the company advertising its product on social media. One problem, however, is they come with an important drawback: custom-built and human-driven
analysis can be too rigid and will often fail to respond swiftly to the kinds of market shifts that today are inevitable in social media. A business employing custom-built solutions to manage audience targeting and engagement will, increasingly, need to invest considerable resources into a never-ending, lengthy software development process,
just to achieve their original functionality and ROI, let alone gain new traction.

This means that vendors offering custom software approaches to brands looking to manage targeting across platforms will fall short on boosting efficiency. Furthermore, the time spent developing the programme and updating it accordingly means that ads quickly become irrelevant, leading to concomitant dips in ROI. Interestingly, very few such vendors publicly embrace the custom-software label any longer, whatever their origins.

SaaS is currently the name of the game with a wide variety of competitors claiming the advantages of a single code base. But the reality is that true multi-tenant SaaS approaches never require a so-called developer ticket. And so providers that offer more customised software to their clients (such as Sprinklr, Pegasystems and Verint) may boast of their ability to tailor solutions to a company’s needs, on one code base. But the reality is that anything short of a true SaaS platform is slower to adapt to change, and can result in businesses overthinking and overdeveloping their social media advertising models to the detriment of their bottom line.

The Agility of a Single Code Base

As data protection regulations are tightened thanks in no small part to the advent of GDPR, custom software ultimately will not be agile enough to allow for the swift implementation of the new rules, because these solutions cannot be managed centrally. In the light of this, automated, standardised SaaS providers like Hootsuite, Salesforce and Spredfast who deliver a more responsive and more easily updated service, are likely to rise to the forefront.

As single codebase solutions, they are easier to maintain and implement and therefore are able to provide quicker adaptation to market developments and regulatory needs when they arise. While firms like as Hootsuite and Spredfast have always focused on a SaaS platform, Sprinklr, Pegasystems and Verint, among others, have turned to increasingly emphasise this part of their business in their communication at this time of heightened regulatory activity, even as Sprinklr employees, for example, suggest the company still regularly pitches custom packages to clients.

While their differences may have been negligible for the longest time, an ever-faster world dominated by social media and new data protection requirements is exposing the contrast between the two systems. With single codebase solutions set to grab a greater slice of the pie, marketers looking to capitalise on shifting market trends should take note as Facebook is slowly losing its position as advertising platform of choice.

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by Catherine Miller
source: marketMogul.