As audiences grow and platforms become more sophisticated, social media is only becoming more valuable for marketers. But as more brands invade social platforms, marketers need help optimizing their content strategy and ad spend—and that’s where marketing technology comes in. eMarketer’s Tricia Carr spoke with Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of social media marketing platform Socialbakers, about how this technology has changed to meet marketers’ needs, and which social benchmarks are most important throughout the industry.
eMarketer: How is marketing technology changing how marketers fully optimize their social media efforts?
Yuval Ben-Itzhak: With the first wave of this technology, marketers wanted to see how they were performing, how to “trend” on social media, and then make decisions based on that. But now it’s much more complex—marketers are managing multiple brands, there are many social networks to manage and there is a lot of content to generate each day. The work marketers have to do on social media is hard to scale if people are left to understand the data that drives decisions.
The technology is becoming more algorithmic and diagnostic, especially with artificial intelligence, and [now it’s more] about using the data that really matters to play around with audiences, optimize content, see how people engage and of course, optimize spending.
eMarketer: When marketers have access to powerful data from social networks, what smart, creative ways are they using that data to optimize in the areas you just mentioned?
Ben-Itzhak: When you have data about an audience that engages with a brand, smart marketers want to know more about the personas—for example, are there different personas that prefer different product lines? They also want to know how personas evolve over time to help them make decisions.
The other area is content. What types of content are the most engaging, and what actually influences our audience? If you’re creating a campaign for a brand or product, it’s imperative to know who you’re speaking to, which users will be most engaged, and the users who will drive the success of this campaign. In the past this was done by guesswork or agency studies, but today it’s almost happening in real time. You can have a view of your audience that allows you to make quick, smart decisions.
eMarketer: Marketers are constantly searching for technologies that help them prove they’re making the right decisions. What’s an example of a recent update Socialbakers made to its technology offering that was prompted by this demand?
Ben-Itzhak: One big trend on social is that the cost of paid content is rising, so we made an addition to our technology suite called Ad Benchmarks where we can benchmark how a marketer has performed with their own ads in terms of cost, reach, engagement and other metrics against total social spend. Marketers always want to know not only how they performed, but whether they paid more or less than their competitors.
eMarketer: Speaking of costs, what performance benchmarks are marketers using now for paid social, and will those change throughout 2018?
Ben-Itzhak: Marketers’ first big focus this year has been engagement metrics. They see how content performs and what is gaining traction. They also want to know whether their audience is going to their competitors or whether new brands are starting to get some traction. In the second half of this year, a major benchmark was ad spending, which is driven by the growing cost of ads.
Next year we’ll continue to see the ad spending benchmark get a lot of traction, but we’ll also see benchmarks emerge for affinity and varied audiences.
eMarketer: Artificial intelligence is a buzzword now, but how is it helping marketers optimize their social media marketing efforts even more?
Ben-Itzhak: There’s a lot of day-to-day work that needs to be done for social media marketing, and it’s very hard to scale that work and do it accurately across different brands and social networks if marketers do everything manually. And businesses often have issues with the capacity of their people.
Marketers are realizing that they should spend time on making smart decisions, but let the algorithms do the day-to-day jobs and decide, of the millions of activities happening on social media, which should get their attention?
eMarketer: How can marketers justify testing out new technologies so they can do less of the day-to-day and focus more on moving the needle?
Ben-Itzhak: In a lot of organizations, people don’t care what technology you use—they care about the value it brings to the business. Is this platform or AI integration actually making a difference, or is it just consuming more resources? We’ll see more conversations around “Why do we need this technology?” and “Why now?” rather than asking how the technology actually works.