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Brands Tread Carefully with Social Commerce

November 25, 2015


Rob Wolf
Director, Communications
Microsoft

Thanks to the introduction of smarter targeting capabilities, buy buttons and other paid media tools, brands can now take their social campaigns further than they could through organic marketing alone. Though some are eager to experiment, many are taking a more cautious approach. Rob Wolf, director of communications at Microsoft brand social media, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about how Microsoft plans to tackle the social landscape in 2016.

eMarketer: What were some of the biggest changes to your social media strategy in 2015, and how will they shape your strategy going into next year?

Rob Wolf: Over the past year or two, there’s no question that the biggest change has been the growing importance of paid media in the overall approach we take to social media. If brands are not using paid media, they’re very limited in the amount of people they’re reaching. With paid media, there’s a world of opportunity in terms of finding the right people for the right message.

eMarketer: Video has become an important component of social media marketing and advertising. How should brands ensure that their videos are getting in front of the right consumers?

Wolf: Smart brands are experimenting with video that wasn’t created for other platforms. Some of the best examples are videos created specifically for social; it could be a GIF, or a 15-second video that really focuses on one moment of a story.

“People tolerate advertising but they don’t love it. We have to be careful with the trust of customers because it’s very easy to unfollow a brand when it becomes too aggressive in its approach.”

Brands need to get more efficient about how they create videos, because it’s very expensive to produce them. It costs $50,000 to produce a professional 2-minute piece, but marketers should reallocate that toward multiple pieces of content.

eMarketer: Buy buttons are slowly making social commerce a reality. What do brands need to think about before incorporating them into their social media strategy?

Wolf: Buy buttons could be interesting, but I would proceed cautiously. At Microsoft, we try to tell a broad story that speaks to our company ideals and mission. People tolerate advertising but they don’t love it. We have to be careful with the trust of customers because it’s very easy to unfollow a brand when it becomes too aggressive in its approach.

We try to add to the conversation, but not always be in selling mode. When the time is right and we have a specific product to sell, then yes, we should do it. But we should be careful with where we put the emphasis.

eMarketer: Facebook Atlas now allows advertisers to use social data to target consumers outside of the social network environment. Is this a capability that Microsoft plans to leverage?

Wolf: There’s a very rich amount of data that the social networks have about people, and if they can bring that targeting capability to bear around the web, then that’s potentially a powerful thing. I’m hesitant about it because people are just starting to get comfortable with the native aspects of advertising and promotional messages showing up in their newsfeed.

People are consuming so much content in a newsfeed scenario that if you can integrate an advertising message into that newsfeed, it seems less obtrusive than a traditional banner ad.

eMarketer: What other types of targeting will be important to Microsoft in 2016?

Wolf: The device that consumers are on and the interests that they have are what’s most important. For example, if somebody has visited a certain news article about our technology, then that’s information we could use to provide more relevant advertising in the future. If they’ve been to a story of ours about quantum computing, the Special Olympics or women in engineering, those are all bits of insight that we now have into what they find interesting. If we have a future story to tell on any one of those subjects, then we have an audience to target.

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