Nearshore Americas

LatAm-Focused Marketing Directors Find Social Media a Challenge

Source: WorldCity

Here’s the reality for many marketing executives today: Not enough staff, too little budget, added responsibilities and a fast-changing media landscape to navigate, including a social-media explosion.

More than a dozen professionals discussed those challenges – and ways to handle them — at WorldCity’s Marketing Connections on Jan. 21, as they sketched an agenda for talks in 2011.

One common concern: how to harness the power of social media to meet company goals and boost profits. Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are so new that many employers are still struggling to figure out how to weave them into larger business strategies and how to measure their effectiveness.

“Right now, it’s like the wild, wild west” in social media, said Claudia Damas, a manager for Kinetic KW, which handles media planning and buying for “out-of-home media” such as billboards and cell-phones.

Some companies seem too keen to jump into social media. It’s important to remind them that “traditional media still rules,” said Annabel Beyra, a partner at The MarketWise Group,which offers marketing, public relations, logistics and other services largely for companies doing business in Latin America.

Others hesitate too much, concerned about the costs and effort to monitor public comments or perhaps appearing too commercial in social media, participants said.

Still, other companies aim to measure their effectiveness on new media, sometimes turning to new tools or business partners. Miami-based Quaxar, for example, offers software that tracks how customers in databases respond to different digital campaigns, helping measure customer loyalty and build relationships with customers, said Maria Meinhard, Quaxar’s business development chief.

Yet too few companies have a clear plan for social media to gauge if they’re really using the new media well, said Elisabetta Bell, growth services manager in Miami for Caterpillar Latin America, the heavy equipment maker.

“Strategy is key. If you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know if you’re effective,” Bell said.

What’s indisputable is that new media is changing quickly, requiring marketers to shift tactics.

A couple of years ago, for instance, bloggers were hot for online marketing. Companies sometimes hired bloggers to write directly for company-sponsored Web sites or to mention their business on a blog, said Luigi Bellizi, director of marketing and communications in Miami for Grupo Radio Latino.

Now, well-known journalists such as TV’s Larry King or established media such as mainstream newspapers are gaining traction online, as consumers look for credible sources across all media platforms, he said.

“You can find so much information online that you can’t trust. You need to have a big name or company associated with it to be sure you can trust it,” Bellizi told the group.

Adding to the complexity, social media varies by country, requiring attention to local markets.

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In Mexico, where crime and security are serious concerns, many people are wary of posting personal information on Facebook or using Twitter regularly, said MarketWise Group’s Beyra. In Venezuela, Twitter instead has become key to politics. Even Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tweets.

Keeping up with new media is especially tricky, because marketing executives are juggling more tasks with lean staffs and budgets, participants said. Many companies are not adding marketing staff at Miami regional offices, even as they expand operations in buoyant Latin America.

That leaves stretched marketers seeking ways to convince leaders inside their companies to view marketing in a new way, “not as a cost center but as a driver for growth,” said Caterpillar’s Bell.

Tarun George

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