Social media and marketing: Is the honeymoon over?

social mediaIt’s no secret that companies large and small have been putting significant energy into social media marketing and networking in recent years.

It’s happened for a variety of reasons – not least as a defensive strategy to keep from losing out over competitors who might be quicker to adopt social media strategies and leverage them for their business.

And yet …

Now that the businesses have a good half-decade of social media marketing under their belt, it’s pretty safe to say that social tactics aren’t very meaningful sales drivers.

That’s not just me talking.  It’s also Forrester Research, which as far back as 2011 and 2012 concluded this after analyzing the primary sales drivers for e-commerce.  Forrester found that less than 1% was driven by social media.

And in subsequent years, it’s gotten no better.

A case in point:  IBM Smarter Commerce, which tracks sales generated by 500 leading retail sites, has reported that Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter combined represent less than 0.5% of the sales generated on Black Friday in the United States.

Those dismal results aren’t to say that social media doesn’t have its benefits.  Generating “buzz” and building social influence certainly have their place and value.

But considering what some businesses have put into social media in terms of their MarComm resources, a channel that contributes less than 1% of sales revenues seems like a pretty paltry result – and very likely a negative ROI, too.

Going forward, it would seem that more companies should pursue social media marketing less out of a fear of losing out to competitors, and more based on whether it proves itself as an effective marketing tactic for them.

Consider the points listed below.  They’ve been true all along, but they’re becoming even more apparent with the passage of time:

1.  Buying “likes” isn’t worth much beyond the most basic tactical “bragging rights” aspects, because “likes” have little intrinsic value and can’t be tied directly to an increased revenue stream.

2.  A great social media presence doesn’t trump having good products and service; even dynamite social media can’t camouflage shortcomings of this kind for long.

3.  Audiences tend to “discount” the value of content that comes directly from a company.  This means publishing compelling content that clears that hurdle requires more skill and expertise than many companies have been willing to allocate to social media content creation.

Calibrating the way they look at social media is the first step companies can take to establish the correct balance between social media marketing activities and expected results.  Instead of treating social media as the connection with customers, view it as a tool to connect with customers.

It’s really just a new link in the same chain of engagement that successful companies have forged with their customers for decades.  In working with my clients, I’ve seen this scenario play out the same basic way time and again; it matters very little what type of business or markets they serve.

What about you?  Have your social media experiences been similar to this — or different?  I welcome hearing your perspectives.

3 thoughts on “Social media and marketing: Is the honeymoon over?

  1. In a way, it’s all nothing new.

    Decades ago, I compiled a large list of target companies to approach for hiring me (the product) in a given market. The result: Zero.

    What did it – and very well, thank you – was a single letter that went astray and ended up with someone who knew someone who knew someone who talked to someone, and a personal phone call.

    It’s the hype business selling itself. And, so far, considering the questionable results, strangely, that hype business was able to increase its own sales based on the wholly counter-intuitive motto: If it doesn’t really work well, you need more of it.

    AKA: If you find yourself barking up the wrong tree, you must bark louder.

  2. The expectations from social media have always been wrong. People are just slow to discover that.

    And most companies are much too simplistic in defining ROI on communications as well. You can’t measure it in increased sales for a single medium, a single blurb, etc.

    In my magazine, we deal with hotels; everyone wants us to show ROI but no one is asking Mr. Carpet for ROI for that new lobby refurbishment, right? But don’t maintain your hotel and the guests will stay away. The same goes for maintaining your brand equity, of course …

    We could have a long fun chat about this, preferably over a good glass of wine!

  3. I notice that many of my friends on Facebook like to post political diatribes. Can we assume that they, too, are a complete waste of time?


    As far as I can tell, the only thing people universally want to see on Facebook are videos of dogs pulling cats in little wagons or guys putting a basketball through a hoop at a distance of 200 feet, blindfolded.

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