As Platforms Proliferate, Which Ones Are Worth It For Marketers?

marcgrabowskiddt"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Marc Grabowski, CEO at Iris Mobile.

The landscape, language and measurement of new channels have changed to a point where traditional display inputs are no longer king. We have traversed iterations of performance measurement from cost per impression to click, like and install, which seemingly only encourages new platform purveyors to create more original nomenclature than ever before.

Our disparate mobile world owned by no one and shared by the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest raises the question of normalizing data. How can marketers optimize their budgets and time spent across platforms? How can marketers determine which platforms deserve their time and when they should let others move on research first?

Early Experience

With the emergence of new mobile platforms, new language, measurement and data attributes have been established faster than ever. Facebook most famously created a new language and economy defined by brand “fans” and object “likes,” long before a well-defined revenue or performance model was in place. In their early days, Facebook brands experimented with tactics to build a following to optimize organic message reach.

This experience undoubtedly helped brands understand more about the mechanics within the Facebook ecosystem, and likely offered an advantage when it became commonplace to buy targeted ads.

Twitter offered the same opportunity prior to promoted tweets, where brands had to act like common users to build a following before promoted tweets provided a leg up.

Platform Selection

With venture capital dollars at a historical high, new platforms emerge constantly, making it difficult to know where to place your energy. But in this environment, choosing which platforms are worth the time to thoughtfully research is critical. Researching too early could result in time spent on a platform that fizzles out and never reaches critical mass. Researching too late could result in missed opportunities to partner with the next Facebook. Added to this is the fear that a successful platform will be acquired, leading to a stalled road map as the megacorp kills all that is good about the platform while creating greater continuity within the larger organization.

The easiest place to start is with your customer base. Have you defined your customers and understand their media habits? If you haven’t clearly defined your customers, stop reading now and spend your time understanding more about the people who keep your lights on.

Where are your customers spending their media time? How are they interacting with platforms? How are the platforms helping their lives?

What type of data do you need to gather to better service your customers? What type of data is unique to that platform?

Then move on to the platforms. How well funded is a platform? Can it stay independent if it chooses? Does the platform have a moat around it? Said another way, is there some reason that other platforms cannot simply build a solution that mimics its purpose?

Is it accessible? Does it have open APIs or can you experience the platform as a consumer to understand the best application for a brand? For example, a brand doesn’t need to run advertising to create posts on Facebook or boards on Pinterest. Snapchat, however, makes any brand experience difficult without a direct partnership.

Answering these questions about your customers and the platforms they use will help direct your energy so you can hone in on a platform that will resonate with your base.

Learn The Platforms As A User, Not A Brand

Advertising on Pinterest or Snapchat is not yet common practice for marketers but usage among many consumer cohorts is widespread. These platforms iterate quickly to stay current with the user experience.

Successful social communication platforms will always prioritize user experience over monetization channels. As a result, the advertising will leverage a more native feel than historical models. Early understanding of user experience will help brands understand how their communications on these new platforms can be beneficial to users, and not solely disruptive.

This stage of research will not only familiarize you with the platform but will allow you to interpret the importance of a platform-specific metric to a user, such as likes, pins, fans or followers. For example, if I like too many brands on Facebook, my news feed will be cluttered with irrelevant and unwelcome messages from brands that are not relevant enough to me. If I follow everybody on Twitter, I’ll never be able to stay current on the people who really interest me.

Timing

Many marketers struggle to decide the right time to start seriously exploring a new platform, especially when it’s hard to know whether a given platform will become a major player. But if your target market has signaled a shift to a new platform, it is never too early to understand how the platform functions. This will allow you to develop strategies around deployment, data gathering and optimization much earlier than your competitors. Early mover advantage helps you build the core competencies much earlier than competitors and potentially beat slower-moving competitors to a fertile new market.

For example, current trends show that now is the time to deploy research on Pinterest and Snapchat, but it may be too early for Ello. Topics such as best practices for assembly of “boards” and calculations around the value of a “pin” immediately come to mind. Similarly, while advertising opportunities are limited on Snapchat, it is an important platform for any marketer determined to understand how millennials engage in mobile conversations.

By understanding platform nuances and natural expectations of users, you will learn how to become a welcomed participant in the platform, and not a virtual carpetbagger known for exploiting new channels.

Follow Marc Grabowski (@MarcTGrabowski), Iris Mobile (@Iris_Mobile) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

 

 

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