June 26, 2014

Rats Deserting The Social Media Ship


A few months back I wrote that the foundations of social media marketing were crumbling (here and here.) Well, now the walls are caving in, too.

You know you're in trouble when the press and the pundits turn on you. The way this game works is that the chatterers first fall in love with your story -- they don't just report it, they amplify it. And then when reality rears its ugly head, like rats, they scramble for the exits.

You know the trouble is serious when they start referring to "the hype" as if they weren't the bozos who disseminated it.

That's exactly what's happening with social media.

Last week, a silly Gallup study (based on self-reported nonsense) and a study of Facebook engagement triggered a flood of anti-social media reporting in the press.
  • The Wall Street Journal headlined its story "Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype"  
  • Avinash Kaushik, online marketing guru, wrote a blog post entitled "Social Media Advertising Does Not Influence Purchases" 
  • According to BusinessWeek, "Tweets, Likes, and Shares Don’t Make Us Buy Stuff, Americans Say" 
  •  CNBC weighed in with... "Facebook Brand Engagement Plummets, Study Shows"
  • And the website Marketing Land headlined a story..."For Major Brands 'Engagement Has Plummeted' On Facebook"
Of course, the fact that the Gallup study is pure hogwash and "engagement" has always been complete bullshit doesn't change the fact that social media marketing is a giant flop.

While the press is jumping ship on social media, there are still a few stalwarts who are heavily invested in the delusion of social media marketing. These people are paddling very hard to save the cause by trying to shoot holes in the Gallup study. They are on a fool's errand. It's true that the Gallup study is garbage, but this tactic won't resurrect the stinking carcass of social media marketing.

The social media industry has no one to blame but itself. They created and instigated the astounding hype about social media marketing and refused to rein in the zealots and maniacs in their midst whose immoderate and provocative rhetoric created an environment in which a backlash was inevitable.

The people I really feel sorry for in this whole ridiculous saga are the agencies with integrity who lost good accounts by being honest with clients. They tried to tell cement-head clients that social media was criminal hype. What did they get for their trouble? Fired.

Meanwhile the vacuous jargon monkeys who promised social media magic walked away with nice accounts.

The sad fact is that agencies still can't tell their clients the truth about social media for fear they'll be thought démodé.

Welcome to the golden age of bullshit.

10 comments:

duck_of_d00m said...

Hey! You are cheating.
"One of the most unreliable practices of our marketing "researchers" is to ask people questions instead of measuring their behavior. In other words, rather than watching to see if you're cheating on your girlfirend, they ask you if you are. Then they treat your answer as a fact rather than just the bullshit it is."

I do not defend social media, i just assert that try to understand how something affect people behavior based on their answers to stupid questions in survey is mistake.

Adam said...

duck_of_d00m

That's why he refers to the Gallup study as "silly", "hogwash", and "garbage". I though it was clear Bob didn't approve of its method. Another hint: "based on self-reported nonsense".

Sean Peake said...

"Vacuous jargon monkeys." Nail, meet hammer

Carl Zetie said...

In today's edition of "questions demanding the answer Why Not Both?", we have: "Is the Gallup poll crap or is social media advertising a con?".

DuBOISTEROUS said...

Did we really need a gallop poll to figure out people don't buy shit from social? Anyone that knows their way around google analytics could tell you that. I could tell you that the 8 rats in my company that do "social media marketing" generate roughly 0.07% of revenue.

LeShann said...

Well, they'll just move on to the next hype... The thing is, telling the truth makes marketing a lot more simpler, and no one can sell a business with high margins per hour on something too easy. It also puts a lot more onus on creative thinking, which has pretty much fled this industry and has no space to thrive in 99% of brands' marketing departments, too scared to do anything bold or too busy looking at their "consumer relationships".

timorr said...

"I am not making this up!" Department

Recent articles and direct quotes from them:

http://hr.blognotions.com/2014/05/26/the-naked-emperor-and-employee-engagement-its-not-working/?_m=3l.000l.47.ed0akv0ae9.3ax
"We will not be able to define the ROI for social business until it is no longer necessary."

http://www.cmswire.com/cms/social-business/the-catch22-of-social-roi-025301.php
"Social becomes the answer without a need for a traditional ROI."

And thank you, Bob, for this:

"The people I really feel sorry for in this whole ridiculous saga are the agencies with integrity who lost good accounts by being honest with clients. They tried to tell cement-head clients that social media was criminal hype. What did they get for their trouble? Fired.

"Meanwhile the vacuous jargon monkeys who promised social media magic walked away with nice accounts."

Been there.

mark said...

If you have wondered what the SM gurus would write given the chance to create something longer than 140 characters, check out this insane video from Oracle for a digital marketing platform. Despite a mere 5 minute running length, it introduces about 15 different actors.

http://www.eloqua.com/content/dam/eloqua/videos/Oracle-Marketing-Cloud-for-Life-Sciences-HD.mp4

Samuel Scott said...

Bob, you make a lot of valid points -- in the context of B2C sales. But there's a lot more that you miss. Social media is essentially a collection of communications channels that can be used for many different purposes -- not just direct sales.


Companies monitor mentions on, say, Twitter, and their customer service teams can response almost in real time. Companies can respond to questions, compliments, and complaints on Facebook pages. If a person follows a company on Google+, then that company's webpages are more likely to show up in (personalized) Google search results when that person searches for something. Twitter can great PR tool for media relations and pitching stories.


In short, you are judging social media based on only one metric: B2C sales. But there are many different success metrics that depend on why a company is using social media in the first place.

Samuel Scott said...

Or, to summarize: The ROI of social media depends on why you're using it.