March 04, 2015

Third Stage Social Media

One thing about social media maniacs, they're very inventive.

Just as their nutty ideas are about to hit a brick wall, they seem always able to come up with new reasons for pissing away boatloads of time and money on social media marketing.

Before we get to the latest chapter, let's quickly review the first two stages of social media marketing delusion.

The first stage was the engagement stage. When the miracle of social media first started to enchant the titans of marketing, the rationale was that consumers (that means people) wanted to engage with brands and marketers. You see, we are all so in love with brands that we want to have relationships with them, and co-create, and...well, you've heard all this bullshit a thousand times.

Sadly, it turns out that there are very few people who are so devoid of a life that they want to spend time engaging with brands or marketers. In fact, a recent study showed that even among a brands fans only .7% - that's 7 in a thousand - ever engage with its posts on Facebook. The number is less than half that on Twitter. Which begs the philosophical question, what's half of nothing?

The second stage was the conversation stage. When it turned out that people becoming a fan of a brand had nothing to do with "engagement" and everything to do with hoping to get something for free, a new philosophical rationale for social media had to be created quick. Enter "the conversation." "The conversation" posited that consumers (that's right, people) were so enamored of their favorite brands that they would use social media to extol the brands virtues to others who would do likewise and this would create a tsunami of conversations and sales results that would make advertising obsolete and irrelevant.

Sadly, it also turned out that no one wanted to have a fucking conversation about brands. Don't believe me? Take a stroll over to your Facebook page. You'll find plenty of traditional paid ads, but "conversations about brands" turn out to be rather thin on the ground.

A few months ago, The New York Times put it nicely,
“A few years ago, (Facebook) was telling brands to increase the number of people following their pages. Now it says fans are largely irrelevant."
Which leads us to what may turn out to be the newest era in social media fantasyland. I am calling it the catalyst stage. It goes something like this:

Social media isn't for consumers to engage with a brand, or to have conversations with or about a brand, instead it's for consumers to interact with and support each other through the brand. I'm afraid I'm not doing justice to this lunatic idea, so let's hear an expert describe it:

This video has a nasty habit of disappearing from the post. If it's not here, you can find it here.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm actually living on the same planet as these meatballs (ya know, people.)

Thanks to Sean O'Donnell for this video


  1. I wonder if the brand name "Digitas" was chosen to sound like "Dignitas", the Swiss assisted suicide clinic. Come to think of it, I should go to Dignitas's Facebook page and use their brand to find some new friends so that we can "support each other through the brand". Or maybe I'll just go to the Jack Daniels FB page and join some do-it-yourselfers who are using traditional methods to be my mythical social crutch. Either way, after watching this, I'm pretty sure I don't want to live anymore.

  2. denTarthurdent, you're ahead of me. I was thinking of a Social Media equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous. Maybe there are 5, 7 or 10 Steps to 'engaging', 'connecting', 'conversing' that we can learn to make Social Media more 'relevant' in supporting people to 'love' their brands!

  3. I don't understand why social is still not considered just another platform. A very indirect one, at that.

  4. You forgot the prequel to the engagement stage. The "Drive website traffic" stage. Search and email were to die and social media was going to be the big revenue generator for websites. Those numbers are like your secret family living in the attic - no one wants to see them. Then they turned to fluffiness. Engagement. The conversation. The relationship. Really, they are customer service with a keyboard instead of a phone. Except they can't help you. They just tell you to call.

  5. But you've gotta admit that the 2 Facebook's thumbs up forming a little heart at the end of the video is the sweetest thing ;-)

  6. Laugh out loud funny. Hey Bob, I really want to get to know you better. But first, do you know that you remind me of the Tidy Bowl captain?

    I must be getting old. I like to get to know people over a nice dinner and maybe a cocktail or two.

  7. What that guys says is so bad it is not even wrong.

  8. Bob, i know you are campaigning to stop the bullshit but I really think that you should take it a step further and campaign to abolish marketing altogether. lets keep sales, advertising and accounting and just nuke the rest

  9. Although I have my fair share of criticism for the social industry, to be fair the article is very vague, only talks about the theory that the metrics are wrong (which is often true but SOME companies do track more than likes nowadays) and mostly looks at the community management aspect of social media (which has, indeed decreased significantly, to the point of virtually nothing). You can't on the one hand blame social media for talking to its fans only and then not look at the possible effect social media campaigns can have on non followers. And there can be - there is a texas sharpshooter fallacy for sure as we mostly look at the ones that did great, but if they could work it shows that something is possible. There are campaigns that do well, companies that have been able to grow thanks to smart social strategies (Xiamoi being probably the best example).
    But to the point, that article is frankly mostly a bunch of conjectures based on rehashed data points, not a proper study of the impact of social on your business' bottom line. It's opinion, not evidence.

  10. If your brand's users really need to be able to support each other, I think you may have a bigger problem than your social media strategy ...

  11. I like the idea. And first step would be for the morons who buy into this bullshit to acknowledge that they have a problem. Then it would be nice if they were to apologize for all the crap they put the rest of us through.