There are some who might label me as a sceptic and I am sure what I share here about the value of social media for marketing your brand will raise some eyebrows and invite opposing views from some quarters. Some may ague that the presentation being dated late 2013 is no longer relevant yet I beg to differ. The context of what is being discussed equally applies today and people are in my view continuing to make the same mistakes.
I have long held an opinion that questioned the real value of social media as a broad solution for brand marketing. I simply don't blindly accept the premise that it is so many believe it to be and I am seeing a growing body of evidence that I not alone in my opinion.
So what got me all fired up all of a sudden? Recently I read a post on LinkedIn Pulse that made comment on a presentation by Prof. Mark Ritson (see the video recording of this presentation below). Mark Ritson is associate professor at the Melbourne Business School where he lectures on brand management as well as being a visiting professor at MIT Sloan School of Management. I therefore consider him to be no lightweight and a respected authority on this subject.
I suggest that anyone involved in digital marketing as a consultant or as a business owner/marketing manager to take the time to listen to the presentation however take note that it does run for 90 minutes. Be assured though that it is well worth listening to and in fact is also quite entertaining. Prof. Mark Ritson very much calls it is how it is and doesn’t hold back with his views and it is quite obvious he is very passionate about this subject.
Now don't get me wrong, or start jumping down my throat just yet. I'm not saying social media has no place in society or even in marketing. What I am expressing here is simply my opinion with the suggestion that maybe we should start questioning all the hype around social media as a marketing tool for promoting business brands.
Brands Aren't People.
I think we can all agree, social media has changed the world and how we communicate and access information. It is however exactly what it says "Social Media" – connecting people in a social manner. It is about people not brands and until brands are seen as people (or vice versa), then I suggest that connecting people and brands simply doesn't work.
Consider this –approximately 5% of all marketing spend in Australia is on social media yet it represents almost half of all the content written. This huge imbalance supports my view that there are a lot of people "beating up" interest in social media.
No surprise on this one –most of that content around social media and all its virtues in marketing is coming from (you might have guessed it) social media consultants, service providers and digital marketers; all of whom have a vested interest in getting everyone on board with their services and products.
In my opinion, the marketing industry is suffering from "Groupthink" which is a theory for explaining (as has been proven to be the case) the behaviour of people following the pack in doing what the group does as a whole, fearing to be the odd person out.
If you don't believe or understand this; watch the video below which was made for a TV show back when I was a kid. The show was called Candid Camera and was watched around the world. In the video we see our group force an individual to follow their way of thinking or behaviour even if that group is doing something quite contrary to the individual’s normal behaviour.
This leads me, along with Prof Mark Ritson and others, to question whether we are really adopting social media correctly for marketing in the digital marketing space or whether we are simply following the group without question.
Some Numbers to Consider.
To put my views in some form of perspective let's consider some actual data.
Why do companies use social media?
19% use it as evidence of tangible business benefits.
21% use it to get a gut feel on business benefits.
59% use it to keep up with the latest marketing trends.
In contrast, people use of social media is for the purpose of keeping in touch with friends and family.
64% of people DO NOT follow brands on social media
83% of those who do, follow less than seven brands.
(The above figures for Australian users of social media.) In the US and Great Britain the statistics differ slightly.
Lastly, the top 40 follow Twitter feeds in Australia are from people, not brands. People simply want to follow people.
Ask yourself these questions:
a) If you have both a personal and a “company brand” profile on social media, do you notice a distinct difference in the number of followers/fans/friends/connections between the two profiles?
b) Is the level of engagement with these people different?
I would suggest that your company pages (like mine) reflect a far lower level of interest and engagement than that of your personal page.
Return on Investment (ROI).
The real challenge for many marketers is demonstrating a positive ROI. Digital marketing provides so many tools or have access to even more that makes the task of measuring ROI so much easier than traditional marketing. You are also able to work with much more specific and detailed data.
But how often do you see ROI details on digital marketing campaign results? With the investment required in digital marketing, and social media in particular, measuring the real value of your return is imperative.
So am I decrying the role of social media in marketing? NO. I am however questioning what we are led to believe and whether marketing your brand on social media is the best use of your often limited resources. Can social media be useful at all in brand promotion? In limited circumstances, with carefully orchestrated and managed strategies, yes it can be a useful tactic however more generally I don't think so.
Don't underestimate the value of other media channels
Where any brand development through social media has been conducted you will invariably find the best results have been derived where other media channels have been adopted in tandem. Whilst we here cries of doom for the print media, television and radio, statistics still show that there remains a strong audience in these media so they should not be overlooked as a means for mass market penetration.
As with all marketing it comes down to knowing your market, how they think, feel and respond to all the different senses. It is all about understanding their needs and whether there is a match between those needs and what you have to offer. Brand development does not always convert to sales and it can take a long time to build.
All media has a role to play – you just have to work out which is best suited to your objectives.