Apr 17, 2009
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the “learnings” from the dot com bust, we once again find ourselves being told that traditional business as been¬†superseded¬†by a new form of commercial magic.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:
- 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. ¬†¬†
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.¬†
Delighted to hear your thoughts and views, either email me privately¬†or just leave your comments here.