Being a “social brand” has become the buzzword to be amongst Fortune 500 companies over the last few years, and rightfully so. As Google’s efforts to deliver Internet access to unserved regions through balloons, drones and satellites are becoming a reality, they’re essentially creating a globally represented social market. These advances in technology and the high adoption rate of social media platforms across demographics will give virtually all consumers a voice to speak out on the brands they love and loathe, whether the brand is represented on social or not. It comes as no surprise then, that some of the most prominent brands have found themselves to be quite fragile when under scrutiny of the masses of consumers active on social today.

To meaningfully impact these conversations, brands need to embrace social advertising and its unparalleled ability to (conveniently) tweak and optimise messaging and campaigns almost in real time – effectively the attribute that makes social advertising the most “antifragile” discipline of advertising. Nassim Taleb, literally wrote the book on antifragility and it makes for some great reading, but in a nutshell, something that is fragile is slow to adapt to unexpected events, whereas something that is antifragile reacts positively to unexpected events. To provide an example, air travel is one of the most antifragile systems today, due to the fact that for each incident, the likelihood of another incident with the same cause is dramatically reduced by in-depth analysis of the possible causes of the incident.

This concept of antifragility and the way of thinking it inspires, makes social advertising unique in the field of marketing and communications. It also offers brands looking to thrive in the social space with a viable solution to take on the often daunting social landscape. However, being truly antifragile will require a brand to establish a comprehensive analytical approach that ensures the brand can maximise the insights gained from each marketing effort – from a large campaign over a few months, down to a single tweet and everything in between.

By understanding what to measure, as well as where the most impactful conversations are taking place, brands can gain insight into what motivates their audience. This enables brands to use analytical insights paired with behavioural economics principles to significantly increase the economic value of their social efforts. This approach can also be applied to inform both content creation and can lead to smarter investments in paid social media amplification, which will ultimately drive more success in the new social media landscape.

An analytical approach to the global social market also provides insights that make more traditional advertising research mechanics pale in comparison. While traditional surveys provide valuable insights to complex issues, they have inherent shortcomings. The most prominent of these is the process of selecting a sample of consumers from a target population in order to conduct a survey. This approach assumes that the sample is to some degree representative of the population, whereas in the case of social analytics the whole population, or each individual consumer is considered, resulting in a far more accurate representation of the target audience.

Furthermore, issues like bias-sampling can be completely avoided, not to mention that consumers are bound to express their stated preferences during a survey whereas social analytics provide insight into consumers’ revealed preferences. People’s stated preference often do not match their actions. This means understanding that customers’ real life behaviour is more revealing than survey-based claims potential customers make about what will convert them.

To illustrate this point, consider a fast-food restaurant brand asking customers if clean bathrooms in a restroom are required for a restaurant and they will say yes. Potential customers will say this is non-negotiable, it is required. However, these same consumers will often spend their money at a restaurant where the bathrooms are well, anything but clean.

Naturally, I’m not saying that fast-food brands shouldn’t bother cleaning their bathrooms every now and again, but this provides a clear illustration of the fallacies surveys often deliver due to providing stated preferences whereas social analytics provides revealed preferences.

The benefits of incorporating analytics into a brand’s strategy extends beyond compensating for the shortcomings of traditional research methods. The technological environment that social advertising leverages provides almost limitless mechanics to optimise marketing efforts. The ability to use multivariate testing for example, by “dark” posting the same picture or video with differentiating copy to two custom audiences while evaluating the engagement of both posts. The “winning” post can then be identified and posted to the greater audience later that same day. This also aids in identifying black swans in customer responses, serving an improvised safety net for a brand’s communication strategy.

There are countless other examples of the mechanics made possible by the advancing technology in the field of social advertising. Collectively these make social advertising the most antifragile form of marketing. This should come as a relief to brands that are trying to build advocacy amongst its consumers in the social space – this dynamic new way of interacting with customers simply needs a dynamic way of thinking to accompany it.

About the author:

Tiaan de Kock fulfils the exciting role of Data Analyst within Ogilvy Public Relations, and works alongside the Content Factory and Social@Ogilvy teams to deliver insights that can be applied to brand strategy; community engagement through content optimisation; tactical communications; and crisis management. Primarily Tiaan focuses his efforts on analysing data from various sources with the aim of measuring the success of our efforts in achieving clients’ business goals. Tiaan holds an honours in Economics and is pursing his masters. He also has a keen interest in how behavioural biases affect consumers’ decisions and perspectives towards brands. 

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