Sunday, 4 October 2009

The social media conundrum

Most businesses understandably see social media as an attractive opportunity.
  • 200m blogs on blogger
  • 100m Youtube videos watched every day
  • 5,000m facebook minutes daily
  • 38% of all on line media is on social media platforms
  • 2/3 of the global internet population visit social networks and they are the 4th most popular on line activity
  • 20% of twitter conversations mention brands
Every marketing director is drooling by this stage, because in their heads they have added word of mouth and FREE-ish into this heady mix. Lots of customers for next to nothing brilliant. A facebook page, a bit of twitter, followed by world domination and entering newly developed south American markets, all before tea time. Just in time for early orders at Corney and Barrow or Yates Wine Lodge, depending on how business is doing.

Now to bring everyone back down to earth (because that is what i have to do as a job more often than not) we could make a rational argument pointing out the resource, content, relevance demands and complexities. It would be dull and you won't remember it anyway. Lets try another way.

WH Smiths have just launched their facebook page and you can twitter with them when ever you want. How does that make you feel? Excited? Thought not. But point made, that is how customers may see your brand's social media activity. By the way WH Smiths haven't or i hope they haven't.

Everyday millions of people commute into London by train, they sit there for two to three hours a day. A captive audience, waiting to be marketed to. That is why i am launching my commuter marketing agency tomorrow. I suspect your first reaction is, he is an idiot. Second reaction is why not just put an ad in the newspaper at least they will have something useful (content) to read. Third reaction is, if you are still being polite, 'we will include transport in the media schedule if it fits with the strategy, thanks for your contribution'.

So just because the customers are there does not mean there is the opportunity to market to them. Social media is a really confusing term. Most of them are social networking sites not marketing tools waiting to be utilised.

By all means use social media to listen, or resolve, engage and participate if you can add value but don't think of it as a marketing panacea. And of course first work out what your customers want and if you can credibly provide a solution. Many brands have used social media well (Dell, Mini, Amex, BT) but they have invested considerable time and resource, they also know what they wanted to get out of it.

The social media strategy is easy, do things that customers want or find useful. It's the execution which is the tricky time consuming bit.


  1. James, this post is spot on. I covered a similar angle in my post "Why are clients still scratching their heads about Social Media?"

    The sooner clients stop seeing social media as another advertising channel but instead as an engagement channel (and this is a massive shift that is not taught yet in marketing schools) the better.

    We have a long way to go - and happy to help you and others to spread this important message.

    Andrew Grill

  2. thanks for comments, i agree. and we always come over a bit miserable being the nay sayer.


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Just curious about marketing, psychology, economics, business, irrational behaviour, people, models, communications, advertising, market imperfections, b2b marketing. I work in the marketing communications industry for OgilvyOne.