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Why Social Media changes nothing in Marketing

Do you remember just before the dot com bubble when we were told that the “web changed everything”. Out with traditional business models and obvious commercial good sense and bring in “online business” a veritable “¬†paradigm¬†shift”. Of course it later transpired that you can’t run an online business at a constant loss because you eventually cease to be in business. Having a “cash burn rate” is not a good thing and actually the notion of making a profit remains quite popular with investors (Facebook please take note). Despite the “learnings” from the dot com bust, we once again find ourselves being told that traditional business as been¬†superseded¬†by a new form of commercial magic. This time apparently “social media” has re-written the basic laws of marketing. Well I think not and before you put yourself out of business, here are a few good reasons why:

  1. It is just another channel. That isn’t to say that it does not have it’s own unique dynamics or that it isn’t exciting, but at the end of the day, it is just another marketing channel. If you wanted to produce a radio advert then going to a print designer is not a good idea. Similarly social media marketing does require specialist skills too (but I would say that). But this “special” knowledge is still based on very established and traditional marketing wisdom, the “speciality” is in being able to execute through this medium. My print designer does not leap about day after day talking about paper types or pantone ink colours, my PR consultant doesn’t proclaim “goddess status” because she knows some journalists, so I am getting tired of other social media agencies implying that they have discovered the secret behind alchemy. You haven’t. ¬†¬†
  2. The myth of inbound / outbound marketing. I recently sat through an online webinar (aren’t they just the most tedious thing!) that tried to argue that in the past we pushed marketing messages at our audience, but now in the brave new world they somehow come to us seeking our information.¬†Poppy¬†cock. Marketing, regardless of channel, is about creating a captivating message and placing it in places that our desired audience will trip over it, take notice, and hopefully respond to it. Now if that is a poster on a bill board, 30 second commercial during The Bill (other police soaps are available…), or indeed a funny a status update on Facebook – it is essentially all the same. Quite obviously the style and approach of the content that “you put out there” must be appropriate for the medium, but again its basic marketing really. The only business related reason for Tweeting is to attract attention to your brand, it has nothing what so ever to do with telling people “what you are doing” at that moment. Think about it. Social media, same as other media, depends upon you creating captivating content, no getting away from it.
  3. If you can’t measure it don’t do it. Measuring ROI is not hard, in fact it is easy and frankly if you don’t do then I suspect that you are not really in business. Of course trying to measure the ROI on a single Tweet or a posting to a group on LinkedIN is¬†ridiculous. The point of measurement, is the ROI from LinkedIN or Facebook in total. Consider each of the new media channels as a “campaign” in their own right. Of course one of the down sides to social media is the additional step of “conversation” that you will have to go through. Unfortunately that is the nature of the beast and is a necessary evil. Yes it causes extra work (read cost) and yes it slows down the campaign (reduced effectiveness), so you need to factor this into your thinking when evaluating the channel. But don’t be taken in by those that claim you can’t measure ROI from social media, you can and you must.
  4. Selling is bad, it is all about the community and participation. Have you ever tried to place a PR story that had¬†blatant¬†selling in it? Doesn’t work does it? So simply treat social media in the same way as you would treat standard PR – after all that is essentially what it is. No hard sell, deliver on brand messages in a well structured way, ensure that once their interest as been spiked make sure that there is a trackable (think ROI) way for them to engage with you. Accept that you might have to do some “conversation” before you get the desired goal. Not too hard really is it? “All about community and participation” my bottom!
  5. Social media introduces the revolutionary concept of dialogue. This is almost right, but of course not quite. There have in the past been other forms of business communication channels that have allowed a two dialogue with your audience,¬†admittedly¬†not many though. And perhaps this is where the source of all the¬†confusion¬†and fuss stems from. As stated earlier you are going to have to brace yourself for some (often tedious) “conversations” with your audience. Yes a major downside of social media is that they can talk back at you. So you need to figure out how this dialogues is going to be¬†managed¬†- because it will happen.¬†

Apparently “the consumer now has the power” frankly I have never heard anything so stupid… the consumer HAS ALWAYS had all the power, because it has always been their choice to accept our marketing efforts, to engage with our brands and¬†ultimately¬†to part with money.¬†

In closing – I absolutely¬†realize¬†that a number of people will simply dismiss my views by saying that “I don’t get social media” or that I am “old school”. In fact nothing could be further from the truth! However there is “getting it” and then there is “being swept along by the hype”, the former I am happy with but the latter has never been my style. The skill of a good marketeer is to understand the dynamics of each new channel and figure out how to apply it to their clients brand and when to use it. “Old School”? maybe… I do believe that marketing must deliver a ROI, I do believe that businesses are there to generate profit ¬†and above all I do believe that social media is just another marketing channel to be judged in the same ways as any other.¬†


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7 Responses

  1. [...] an effort to stay alive, the quest to “monetize conversations” within social media has given Why Social Media changes nothing in Marketing Рn3wmedia.com 04/17/2009 Do you remember just before the dot com bubble when we were told that the [...]

  2. Walter Pike says:

    The truth is that you don’t get it :)

    I would like to refer you to my most recent post on my blog Is this the big BLOCK to understanding new marketing?

    I go on about the source of power, and how in fact social media has fundamentally changed the way people interact and find information.

    The biggest mistake that marketers are making is to believe that its just another medium.

    But its a focus on selling that is maybe the big hole. To quote Drucker “…the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

    Be well.

  3. edstivala says:

    Oh dear Walter…
    It won’t be any surprise to you that I disagree with you totally. :-)

    If you wish to perpetuate this nonsense that that is of course your prerogative and I am sure that you will find enough clients with their head in the clouds and no idea what day it is, to keep you busy. I on the other hand tend to prefer to work with clients that have a grip on reality and are not taking a trip on Ecstasy whilst trying to figure out how to win more clients.

    But I do wish you well and thank you for taking the time to comment ;-)

  4. Kate says:

    ED: thanks for this good sense.
    1-YES, webinars are TEDIOUS
    2- They come to us? Not always. There’s no better way to engender bad will from me than to shove a pop-up in my face (or a pop-behind). Never in this life will I ever spend one cent with Netflix, even if I become one of those for whom anyone and everyone else’s story (even fictional anyones) is more interesting and worth my time than my own on a consistent basis.
    3- The other business-related reason for Twittering is psychological, that is, to get someone “hooked” on you, your brand, your story. Even for a storefront, giving someone a reason to visit for a certain number of times, can get them to think of your store immediately when they want whatever it is you have, versus your competitor. If I know what’s on Nightline tonight, I might be induced to stay up and watch it, otherwise I might forget about it, etc.
    4- #4 = good
    Posting this on my FB page, my only social media participation. Twittering is boring me to death; I’ll leave it to the birds.

  5. Mark Green says:

    I agree that this is good sense. It is another medium and, when engaging with it, you need to think a bit about your strategy. When the hype subsides and the technohipsters burn off, it’ll be clear that it’s just another medium.

    I would like to hear a little more about how you measure ROI.


  6. Greg Donahue says:

    Walter, you are soooo wrong. But I agree Ed – you will find enough naive people who think they may be missing the train to keep a business going.

    Social media is another arrow in the marketing quiver. In many ways it is unique. It is low to no cost; it only takes time. But for a real business, that is cost. Time that I spend on social media is time I’m not spending on something else. That being said, I really like to use social media for community building, sharing expertise and even lead generation and brand building.

    As an aside, on the B2B front, the Drucker quote is interesting. If accurate, it at best describes the perfect state for marketing. But it not realistic for marketing to eliminate the need for sales. You may have the perfect product and convince many of the target audience that you are IT, but they still need to do due diligence and competitive assessments and your sales team needs to be there for that. B2C may be different in some cases but for B2B, Peter Drucker is describing marketing heaven.

  7. [...] Twitter is not a religion; some form of black magic or indeed anything particularly clever. It is just another communications channel that is starting to become [...]

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