Fifteen years ago, no one could’ve predicted that a then-incubating website called ‘The Facebook’ would become so influential, sparking revolutions in North Africa, influencing elections at home, and changing the face of marketing forever.

Now, more than ever, marketers have to think on their feet to keep up with fast evolving trends as social media innovations continue to change the landscape. We don’t know what the future of marketing will be, what trends will emerge over the next few years, or how to best capture mindshare in our buyer personas, so it’s important to plan for unexpected technological twists and turns.

Marketers are no strangers to planning. It’s what we do. Historically, campaigns were planned out months in advance with all the details accounted for, but these days, you can’t really account for all the details because of how fast everything’s changing. A new social media platform might explode onto the scene and if you want to stay cutting edge, you’ll keep your team nimble enough to capitalize on it.

These impromtu situations can be planned for, according to Stephanie Abrams Cartin, co-founder of Socialfly, a social media marketing agency specialized in social PR. Cartin and her team work with new social media trends every day and had some words of wisdom to share with us.

As you rev up your engines this year, here are some things you may want to consider.

Set Aside an Innovation Budget

The folks at Socialfly tell their clients to put together an ‘innovation budget.’ Keeping step with new developments in technology and social media marketing will take resources, so plan for them! This plan, and the resource allocation for it, is your innovation budget.

During financial planning, you may set aside a percentage of your marketing budget to ensure you’re poised for success with any new products, platforms and other technologies that may come along. Working in social media, you’ve seen how rapid evolution in technology can transform industry strategies (consider the impact of video and influencer marketing as an example).

An innovation budget pre-designates financial resources for strategy adaptation, but it does something even more important: it mentally prepares you to think on the fly. When your company is positioned for innovation, you’ll embrace change. That gives you the competitive advantage of the forward thinking.

So how much do you set aside? It’s difficult to nail down a number that will work for everyone, especially considering we have no idea what new social media developments might be right around the corner. But Cartin recommends allocating about 20 percent of your total marketing budget as your innovation budget. Alternatively, you can designate a percentage of your marketing ROI.

Having this money ready for change will ensure that when new strategies do emerge, your brand is a step ahead.

Case in Point

Influencer marketing continues vaulting into uncharted territory with new developments in augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI). Social accounts like @Lilmiquela showcase virtual influencers, who do the job of social media influencing--attending swank parties, taking selfies with celebrities, promoting social justice movements, and showcasing designer brands, without even being a real person.

Lil Miquela is a computer generated character influencing real world markets. Is your brand prepared for AR and AI social influencing?

That’s why you need an innovation budget.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Cartin says that the importance of an innovation budget lies in the freedom it gives you to experiment with new strategies. When you set aside a portion of your marketing budget for the unknown, you have room to test drive strategies on new social platforms.

It takes some trial and error to find out how new and developing platforms like Facebook Live fit into your overall marketing strategy. But when you budget for experimentation, the payoff is that you’ll be ahead of the curve.

Facebook Live is working because, as Socialfly’s founders note, video content rules the social media space right now. With it your customers can get an inside look at all aspects of your brand, even company operations. It lets them in on intimate details like sharing a laugh on a coffee break. As a time based medium that uses visuals, dialogue and music to generate emotions, the impact of video marketing cannot be overstated.

So many brands are already switched onto this that Facebook actually ran out of ad placements in 2017--twice! That means they’re probably working hard to develop newer, bolder advertising formats to keep advertising business coming in from more brands. What these platforms will look like is anybody’s guess, but based on the success of platforms like FacebookLIVE and Instagram Stories, it’s safe to say they will probably involve video.

As brands continue to move the majority of their marketing budgets to digital and social media, technology and social platforms are pressured to produce new venues for brand expression. Building an innovation budget from the early stages of your marketing strategy will keep you positioned to master these new platforms right as they come out.

Published on: Dec 18, 2017