There is no inherent value in social media marketing

There is no inherent value in social media marketing

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My list of LinkedIn connections is littered with digital marketers. My feed is a product of the industry I’ve been part of for almost ten years – and is the very industry our entire agency is predicated on.

Over the past few years, I’ve read about all the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of digital marketing… “Social media is everything.” “Social media doesn’t work.” “Digital marketing has never been more important.” “If you don’t understand the value of Social Media, you need to.” Or perhaps worst of all: “If you’re not using social media now, you need to think about whether you’ll be in business in 12 months.”

I’m seeing more and more articles and updates (typically from sales people) doing the ‘convincer’ play. Screaming fear, and touting the need to be using social channels right now.

But before we address the future, let’s look at the past. Here are a couple of (made up) statistics, but I suspect you’ll understand the sentiment:

90% of TV ads are ineffective, and 90% of radio ads aren’t retained in the listener’s mind.

Does that mean that TV and Radio don’t work? Absolutely not.

I just don’t think that the vast majority of messages connect with any part of the market, and as a result, the offending brands rely on over saturation to capture their share of voice. Thus we paint the entire channel with the ‘traditional marketing is dead’ brush.

The brands that continue to succeed across all channels understand both the platforms, and the customer behaviour at play, and think strategically about what they put in front of them. Rocket science, right?

(Click to Tweet (can edit before Tweeting) – https://ctt.ec/bSK_1)

With the above in mind, I believe that 90% of corporate social media efforts don’t work (and by don’t work, I mean that they don’t derive any measurable impact on the brand). BUT, I do believe with complete certainty that social channels do work.

… with the following caveats:

  1. The value of social is that you capture learnings based on how your customers interact (this is quantitative, substantiated interaction) and can thus adjust immediately.
  2. No brand (this is an exaggeration but almost ‘no brand’) derives value from solely posting on a corporate Facebook page. If you’re a community manager and this makes up the bulk of your strategy, you need to look at who is engaging with your content, and why.
  3. If you’re not spending money, more often than not, you’re not reaching and nurturing any audience.
  4. Gone are the days of a spike of traffic being useful, one off ‘ad blasts’ are a relic of 2015. Use custom audiences, and nurture your customers through a funnel over time. That’s how people buy in ‘real life’, and is where we’re currently seeing the most dramatic financial returns from social campaigns.
  5. The need for strong creative and a big idea is more important than ever, but if it isn’t supported with smart distribution, it’s not going to accomplish anything (posting on an Instagram account doesn’t count as ‘smart distribution’).

The above are purely my own anecdotal learnings of recent times, happy to provide them with a few grains of salt ;).

Being active on social media isn’t a strategy. It’s not going to provide you with anything beyond more work to do. In contrast, understanding the channels and how they can support your business growth and being purposeful is a game changer.

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