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Social media's content eclipse

Social media's content eclipse Rebecca Lieb

Whither social media?


Five years ago, it was all social, all the time. Social networks were the rage -- social shares and likes were the metrics du jour. Never mind that volume metrics impart little, if any business value. Social mattered for its own sake, just as "clicks" and "hits" were currency back in the Web 1.0 bubble days.


Today, social is seriously simmering down of all fronts as a focal point of attention in and of itself. Consider these trends:



  • Forthcoming research I'm currently conducting using ScribbleLive's influence analytics platform [disclosure, a client] indicate that content marketing is the topic on top of CMOs' Attention Index this year. Content marketing scored 23,937 mentions, versus social media marketing as a topic with only 7,485 citations.

  • Resent research published by my former colleagues at Altimeter Group underscore this finding. C-suite involvement in social media has plunged. Only 27 percent of companies report executive engagement, close to a 20 percent drop since social media's peak back in 2012.

  • At the same time, organizations are moving to integrate social media as a discipline back into overall marketing operations. There's been a 164 percent increase in integration initiatives these past two years.

  • Increasingly, social is more about advertising than pure "social." Several recent reports indicate social ad spending has doubled over the past two years. J&J's Gail Horwood mentioned last week in a panel discussion her company's social ad spending doubled just over the past year.

  • Yet (see above) ad and media teams still aren't integrated into social media operations.

  • The social media software solutions (SMMS) technology sector is shrinking. Based on research I conducted last year, SMMS is expected to be absorbed by either the ad stack and/or the emerging content marketing software stack by the end of next year.

Other channel-related M&A activity bear this last point out. Just last week, for example, StrongView, a legacy email marketing vendor (originally called StrongMail), merged with Selligent, a marketing automation platform. Email can no longer exist as a stand-alone channel, unintegrated with other digital initiatives. Social media is finally arriving at that party.


Content, meanwhile, is thriving. It's not just what CMOs are talking about, it's also where they're placing their bets. Content marketing positions are increasing across all verticals and industry, B2B, and B2C. Just scan the job listings. This year positions with "content" and/or "editor" in the title went from nearly zero to a frequent occurrence on job listing sites. Currently these tend to be lower-tier executive roles, manager, or director. Next year expect more of these positions to be VP or higher in rank.


If you've ready this far and think I'm dissing social media, you're wrong. Social is a channel -- just as email and search are channels. This is why we're seeing email marketing service providers and SEO agencies rebrand as content marketing platforms, and social media following suit.


Channels are niche. Content is forever.


Rebecca Lieb is an analyst, advisor, and author at RebeccaLieb.com.


On Twitter? Follow Lieb at @Lieblink and iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Rebecca Lieb has published more research on content marketing than anyone else in the field.  As a strategic adviser, her clients range from start-up to non-profits to Fortune 100 brands and regulated industries. She's worked with brands...

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Commenter: Tom Pick

2015, October 27

Great piece (as always) Rebecca. The integration of these efforts only makes sense and is overdue. Content is the base of digital marketing; email social, search, paid, and PR are the channels. Coordinating these efforts in a web presence optimization (WPO) approach is the best way to maximize brand visibility while presenting consistent message across channels. Appreciate the research!