November 13, 2014

The Social Media Paradox

It may be that the best way to have success in social media is to do less.

Here's my thinking.

First, let's get rid of the delusions. While social media marketing is a nice way to keep in touch with your customers and a nice way to respond to customer problems, overall it has been a flabby failure at building brands.

While there are certainly some cases of social media success, in most categories social media marketing has had little to no effect on business growth.

Without going through a whole lot of argument on this, just do an experiment to prove it to yourself. Go to your neighborhood supermarket and cruise the aisles. Make a list of all the products and all the brands that were built by social media marketing. The answer will be somewhere between zero and nothing.

There are, however, certain categories in which social media can be substantially influential. These include restaurants, hotels, certain consumer services, and travel-related categories.

The problem for you as a marketer is that in every one of these categories the type of social media that is influential is substantially free of marketer interference. In other words, it is essentially consumer-to-consumer.

In fact, there is an inverse relationship between social media effectiveness and perceived marketer involvement. The more people sense the heavy hand of marketing, the less inclined they are to believe the reviews that are the soul of social media success in these categories.

The danger in trying to clumsily insert yourself into "the conversation" among consumers is that social media failure does a lot more harm than social media success does good.

If you're in one of the categories in which social media is substantially influential, your best strategy may be to shut the hell up.

Give your customers excellent products, excellent service, and excellent value. Then let them do your social media work for you (they're a lot less expensive than social media "experts" and a lot more reliable.)

You can learn from the social media disaster that is McDonald's and the amazing success of Apple, despite its famous aversion to social media marketing.

That's the social media paradox: often the less you try, the more you succeed.


LeShann said...

To me, most of social media (and "engagement") marketing is like using a thermometer to increase the temperature.

James Thomas said...

Dave Trott pointed me towards this guy being wonderfully skewered by the New Yorker:

I think you offer a good counterpoint. Keep up the good work...

Shanghai61 said...

Pure gold.

Rodrigo said...

I remember reading an article here about marketers obsession with young people and this social nonsense. Here's what F1 supremo thinks about it:

Cecil B. DeMille said...

Wow. I have not had such a strong urge to punch someone in the face since ever.


I think TAC and Thingy should brawl!


As a web analyst, it's always humbling to see how big companies with 10+ social media teams bring in just as much web traffic from social sites as does a ma and pa internet retailer. We're talking barely a tenth of a percent.

Carl Zetie said...

So... homeopathic social media marketing? /ducks