Over the last few days I’ve been interrogating the rationale behind social media. I’ve been suffering from an existential angst that all this social media stuff is at best a kind of ‘branding wallpaper’ and at worst a big waste of company profits. OK, maybe this is an oversimplification, but bear with me while we consider it further.
These thoughts have arisen from a number of conversations with people I respect in various marketing-related areas.
First, in conversation with a published leader in creative thinking and ex Creative Director of several major ad agencies, the prospect arose that “Social Media might just be a big South Sea bubble.” I assume that my co-debater’s rationale relates to the overwhelming hype surrounding social media and the proliferation of platforms, some of which have questionable influence. The same person also cited Apple’s strategy in not engaging in social media – no Facebook, no Twitter, just strong brand building using other channels.
Second, reading an article about new Facebook measurements which set more store by local popularity. The tenet of the article based on the work of a company called Social Bakers was one of “look at who’s now up the list and who has gone down” as if it was some sort of beauty contest.
Third, working with a client whose family business has been running since 1947, who expressed the wish not to be a ‘busy fool’ – he wasn’t specifically referring to social media but the way that various forms of promotion can involve expense, effort and, in the end, er, perhaps not the anticipated profits.
So why spend money on social media? Here are just a few answers to consider:
1. There isn’t another way to reach your customers and other interested parties such as the press and investors with such reach and immediacy.
2. If you are not controlling the conversation about your brand, someone else will – and it might not be favourable.
3. Social media enables you to engage in a conversation with the market, to learn more about customers’ views of your products and services and to ensure that the market views your company as open and approachable.
That said, social media can act as an enormous money pit and it is important to consider the objectives behind every channel and campaign. As with any off-line marketing, think about audience carefully – as each channel has a different profile – then allocated resources accordingly. Ensure that communications within the channels you choose are fitting in terms of style and tone. Measure all activity using both online tools and offline tools such as client surveys and even just talking to customers to understand where they go for information.
Many of my clients are businesses who make money by selling to other businesses. For these companies, social media is equally important but the channels may vary. Facebook is relevant for some B2B businesses and LinkedIn and Twitter are probably relevant for all.
On reflection, social media should be an important element of a company’s marketing strategy but I’m glad that I considered the question This is because it is easy to become over-influenced by the social media industry. The social media industry is like any other business. It’s there to do a job but it’s also there to make money. Make sure that social media activity is strategic, regular in order to be effective, engaged and well managed. Above all, focus on measurement and the bottom line.