Google is putting out its Wildfire. The seemingly harmonious relationship between the search engine giant and the social software platform is has come to an end after a partnership that lasted about 20 months. 

As a part of Google, Wildfire’s aim was to help businesses improve their social media marketing efforts. Google’s interest and investment in Wildfire legitimized social media marketing in the eyes of many observers. 

Well, as the NFL has taught us, something being dropped is just as newsworthy as it being picked up. So what does Google dumping Wildfire mean for social media marketing? Is it dead? Has it devolved into simply throwing money at social networks for ads? 

I don’t think so. Google has its reasons for its loss of interest in Wildfire, but it should not signal marketers that content marketing campaigns are useless. In my opinion, ads are no good without a solid content basis behind them. That said, creative and integrated campaigns that drive consumers to social channels and encourage them to interact with brands are tough to pull off without some serious strategy behind them. 

There are a few concepts and platforms that can help build integrated campaigns, and here are five of them: 

1. Use apps.
There are lots of platforms out there besides Wildfire. They may not have Google’s backing, but they work for designing, creating and managing social campaigns with specific goals. For example, you can use a hashtag to encourage user-generated content or run a Pinterest contest that drives traffic to your website. Apps help marketers set and reach goals, and many offer valuable data to evaluate and use as a basis for future campaigns. Offerpop is a great alternative, as its products run from the very specific (Hashtag Gallery) to the broad (referral campaign). Chose a platform that offers great customer service, aggregation tools, and data options. 

2. Connect campaigns to in-store promotions.
If you’re a brick and mortar marketer, you have to start connecting social to what goes on inside your store. Use user-generated content as in-store ads to connect real people to your products. Promote hashtags in store, and encourage customers to Instagram photos with hashtags for chances to win a contest or be featured on a website. Get people involved in your brand’s social happenings before they even become online fans. 

3. Tie a social campaign to TV advertising.
I bet a thousand bucks you saw the brilliant Esurance hashtag commercial that aired just after the Super Bowl. Almost everyone did, and they tweeted. Not all brands have TV ad budgets, but for those that do, tying advertising into social campaigns is the future of social marketing. Let those budgets work together and stretch the reach of campaigns beyond a Facebook page. People have two screens now, if not more. Make the transition between social media and TV seamless on behalf of your brand. 

4. Use data.
I cannot stress this point enough. Use data to power your ad purchases to make smarter decisions, even if you are an in-house social media coordinator at a small agency. Boosting a post for $20 isn’t going to help if you don’t know who to target that post to. Power campaign decisions based on the demographics, behaviors and habits of the people who interact with your brand online already. Start with Pinterest or Facebook’s own analytics tools, because they are free and easy to digest. Then you can move on to other tools such as Simply Measured or Socialbakers

5. Use campaigns to drive website traffic.
It’s important to build social campaigns that drive audiences back to your website to interact with your products or offerings. For instance, JustFab.com encouraged fans to browse its product line and tweet their wish list link with the hashtag #JustFabWish. For tweeting, fans got a chance to win their most-wanted style. I’m willing to bet a good portion of those who entered also browsed the site and made a purchase they couldn’t wait to win. 

Do not fear the seeming decline of social media marketing. Brands still need to use social media in creative ways, and there are plenty of platforms, advice columns, and services out there to help marketers of all levels continue to do it. 

And of course, we all hope Wildfire keeps on burning, even without Google by its side. 


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