The Social Integration Imperative

Laura Lang has served as worldwide CEO of Digitas since 2008. She is also a board member of VivaKi, the Publicis Groupe digital unit. Yesterday, VivaKi announced the acquisition of 51 percent of social marketing shop Big Fuel, which will report up through Lang. She spoke to Digiday about why social media needs to be more closely linked with other marketing efforts, the trouble with finding ROI in social, and the outlook for Google+.

Will clients go to social media specialist shops in the long run?
Right now people want to make sure they’re getting really informed expertise in new areas like mobile and social. The reality is that in the end clients want really good outcomes. The more that these new skills get aligned with what the client wants, the better everyone is. In the long run, people will go to the partners that drive their outcomes. If you look at history, these start separate, but over the long run clients want them connected to things that drive their business.

What’s the biggest challenge clients face when it comes to figuring out social?
One is how to really manage a brand in channels where you control only components. It’s the notion that in the social space the messages you want to send, you don’t always control what they are. The best communities are based around passion points that are only partially developed by the brand. Clients want to make sure they’re developing programs that will help build the right kinds of communities. Another challenge is how to measure and really understand the return. Is it enough to say this many people liked the brand? We’re going to see more specific metrics coming to understand the true impact of their investments in this space. When these new channels emerge, it takes a while for the metrics to catch up.

What’s the biggest challenge for agencies? Can they make money off social media?
For agencies in one way our brief is the same: outcomes. That can be more leads, more acquisitions, more people that like a brand. The challenge is that  you now need to think of a broader array of tools to get to that same outcome. You can’t forecast in the same way. It’s like a twist on the metrics challenge. How do you build marketing plans that are really going to have impact? How do you understand the right investments of owned and earned and how they interact with other forms of marketing?

Is social still primarily an earned media play versus paid media?
There’s going to be a spectrum. There will be communities formed around passions. But a lot of these social platforms will create opportunities to take those communities and monetize them. Today they’re great places where you can set up dialog and engage with consumers. I don’t think we’ve seen everything that’s going to come [on the paid side]. But I go back to consumer behavior and how authentic you have to be. It’s hard to imagine you could buy something without having underlying real value for people. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a role for paid media from the platforms.

What’s your take on Google+? Do advertisers need another big social platform to blunt the growing force of Facebook?
There’s going to be room for lots of kinds. There’s a lot written about Google+ as a different kind of place to congregate. There’s going to be room for multiple platforms. I don’t think we’ve seen it shake out. It’s not done because we have Twitter and Facebook. People will have very different ways of using their social circles. Some are broader and some are more specialized. We’re moving to this place where you want to curate your own communities.

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