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The Future of Social Media Marketing According to HubSpot's CMO

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This post is going to talk about the future of social media, and it's going to boil it down to six words.

Let me explain.

You might recall that back in January, Twitter announced the launch of its new, integrated mobile video app called Vine. This GIF-like app enables mobile users to capture and share short videos of six seconds or fewer, which goes along nicely with the brevity of a Tweet. These short videos play on a loop, just like an animated GIF does, and actually include audio capabilities (though a muted video is the default setting).

What’s that you say? A brand new app that integrates perfectly with a social network we already love and use regularly? Well, of course we had to play around and see what this app is made of! That’s when we decided to take our standard Twitter chat (#InboundChat) to the next level. We asked participants of the chat to ask questions via the #InboundChat hashtag and our CMO, Mike Volpe, would respond in 6 seconds or less. It was an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA)-style chat, if you will. A class of undergraduate students even joined the chat, where they actually asked the questions via Vine video in addition to receiving Vine responses. Talk about a whole new type of “face-to-face” conversation.

One question that came up during the chat really illustrated the overall sentiment and takeaway from the Vine/Twitter integrated chat experience. @gustavojchavez asked: “What 6 words would you use to describe the future of social media marketing?”

This was Mike Volpe’s answer:

The Future of Social Media (in 6 Words) According to HubSpot's CMO:

A Little More on Those 6 Words

1) Permission

You might recall Seth Godin’s famous book, Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends and Friends Into Customers. This concept of permission marketing is essentially that marketers must obtain permission before advancing to the next step of the purchasing process, as opposed to forcing bottom-of-the-funnel messages onto people who barely know your name. Instead of interrupting your audience in an annoying and aggressive way, you let customers come to you through pure attraction. Sounds lovely, as a buyer and as a marketer, right?

The reason "permission" was listed as number one on Mike Volpe’s list is because, well, inbound marketing isn’t going anywhere. As we become better at blocking out unwanted messages, the world of marketing is headed toward becoming less invasive -- and more permission-based -- out of sheer necessity, not just because it's the path of truth and justice.

Think about it. If you are interested in purchasing a very specific t-shirt you saw someone wearing on the train last week, where do you go to find it? Chances are, you start by using a search engine like Google or Bing. Meaning, you go openly searching for what you want and/or need at the time, and you expect marketers to help you find that item when the time is right. As marketers, it is our job to help people find exactly what they are looking for, exactly when they're looking for it, instead of forcing them to buy something they don’t have any interest in purchasing, ever.

So, what does permission mean for social media marketing? It means asking for a retweet ... and knowing you won't get it unless your content is worth it. It means putting content out on Facebook that you hope elicits engagement ... but isn't an expectation or a guarantee. It's the understanding that as marketers, we're only renting space in front of our social audience's eyeballs. As soon as they lose interest, they can kick us out. As in, we don't have permission to market to our social followers whenever we want; we have permission as long as they allow us. The power is with the consumer, so it's in our interest as marketers to personalize our messages to suit their proclivities.

2) Customer-Centric

How's that for a transition? ;-)

To recap -- who exactly is asking permission throughout the purchasing process? The marketer. Why? Because the customer is king (or queen).

When we talk about a customer, though, that's a little misleading. I mean, if they're a customer, we already won their business, right? How are they the future of my social media marketing? For two reasons:

  • Your customers still have access to your potential future customers on social media. And people aren't exactly shrinking violets on social media, particularly about their customer experiences with brands. Just because your primary objective as a marketer is generating new leads -- on social networks, or other channels -- doesn't mean you can neglect the role your customers play on your social media marketing success.
  • You should get in the habit of thinking of your social media audience as potential future customers, or referrers of future customers. For instance, while not everyone following HubSpot on Twitter is in the market for closed-loop marketing software, a lot of them are active in the startup, tech, and marketing community, and their engagement with our content is instrumental in opening us up to new audiences who are interested in closed-loop marketing software.

Remember: social media is social for a reason. These networks were originally created for humans to interact with other humans, not marketers to interact with leads. When you’re marketing on Facebook, not only are you competing with status updates from other brands ... you're competing with a video of someone's niece walking for the first time. In other words, this isn't about you. It's about the "customer" -- current, future, or otherwise. Show you care about something other than simply raking in the big bucks.

3) Real-Time

Anything happening in real-time is happening live, right then and there. When you see tweets coming in on Twitter as they’re being posted -- that’s real-time. When you're working with a co-worker in the same Google Doc and you see exactly what each person is typing, as they are typing it -- that’s real-time. Social media users want things that are simple, quick, easy to consume, and happening right here and now ... or in response to their own personal "right here and now." Tweeting to a hashtag during an event like the Super Bowl or the Grammys, for instance, fosters that sense of community your social audience craves -- a sense that people can all be a part of the same event at the same time, contributing their own thoughts and opinions. It's that feeling that you're part of a like-minded community. Who doesn't love that feeling?

In this day and age, since things are always happening in real-time, it’s more important than ever to be an agile marketer. If your marketing is slow and clumsy, you’re going to fall far behind the competition. It’s important to plan ahead and have a schedule or editorial calendar to guide you, but make sure you and your team are ready to put all hands on deck if a great newsjacking opportunity comes up, too. Otherwise, your social media presence will just come off as behind the times, irrelevant, and just ... not the place to be.

Want to learn more about how you can leverage real-time in your marketing? Take a look at these 7 Inspiring Examples of Real-Time Marketing in Action.

4) Chaotic

When you get a group of people all tweeting using the same hashtag, hundreds of tweets rolling in at the same time can get a tad chaotic.

Just a tad.

Millions of people use social media every day, so it’s inevitable that users are going to get swamped with real-time updates where everyone wants to have a voice. Just take a look at the #SXSW hashtag, for instance. During South By Southwest, a popular music and media conference, it only takes about five seconds before 30 more tweets with the #SXSW roll in and completely flood out the tweets you were just reading. Seems a little hyperactive, wouldn’t you say? And that’s nothing considering 2,314 tweets are sent every single second, according to Integer Group.

The question marketers must ask themselves, then, is, “how can we stand out among the chaos?"

Two words: Be Remarkable.

This could mean improving the quality of your content, focusing more on consistency across your social channels, or trying to create viral content to help grow your social reach. Being remarkable doesn’t happen in one instance, but rather from improvement and consistency over time. Be the brand that people genuinely want to follow and read content from every day.

5) Neurotic

With the real-time chaos, certainly comes a bit of neurosis. There are so many networks -- so much to monitor, schedule, scale, etc. and barely enough time to do it all, which can make us feel totally anxious and tense. Luckily, there is a stress-free approach to tackling social media. It all comes down to simplifying.

First, you’ll find that some social networks are simply not worth the ROI; plus, everyone’s social media strategy is different. In fact, when it comes to measuring social media ROI, most marketers are using the wrong tools, which is why they are not getting the answers they need to adjust their strategy going forward. Remember that what works for one business, might not work for yours, and vice versa. If you’ve been experimenting over and over again with your social networks and nothing seems to be driving the results you were hoping for, it might be time to re-evaluate your goals or completely pull the plug on one of your social networks. Your perfect solution could even come down to a more simplified social media publishing schedule to help you see exactly what needs to get done, and when.

Have no fear -- there are solutions to the neurotic feelings that comes with social media marketing. Just remember that simplicity is highly underrated.

6) Fun

Yes, social media is fun -- or at least it should be -- and Mike Volpe doesn’t see that changing. Isn’t that the reason we all hopped on many of these networks to start with? Like we mentioned earlier, on social media, you're competing with videos of someone's niece walking for the first time, puppies, kittens, hilarious memes, rage-induced status updates ... the whole nine yards.

So. Are you having fun with your social media marketing? Is your business human enough? Marketing doesn’t have to be so serious all the time, especially on social media. Take a minute to go through your company’s social content. Is it playful and vivacious? Or is it rigid and corporate? Why would a human choose to pay more attention to your company’s status update over a status update from another human? In the words of my bossman, "Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with your marketing."

"Don&squot;t be afraid to get creative and experiment with your marketing." - Mike Volpe
What's the Takeaway for Social Media Marketing?

If you take anything away from this post, and Mike Volpe’s thoughts on the future of social media, it should be this:

1) Ask for permission.
2) Keep your customers happy.
3) Be agile.
4) Be remarkable.
5) Simplify.
6) Have fun.

If you’re already tackling these six action items in your social media marketing, then great -- you’re already ahead of the game! If you still have some work to do, don’t worry ... this social media marketing stuff is new, and rapidly changing. If you throw yourself into it now, and commit yourself to it, you can catch up in no time.

What other words would you use to describe the future of social media marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments!