Tuesday 12 August 2014

Step right up, social media snake oil here (repost)

I was freelancing at a social media agency recently, and the job included writing Facebook and Twitter updates for a few big brands. The experience has led me to two conclusions:

1. Social Media is a very powerful research tool.  

2. Social media cannot be used to launch or grow a brand. 

Why? The simple answer is: To grow a brand you need to reach buyers that aren't yet consumers of your brand. Stealing them from your competition basically. 

The action of 'liking' a brand on Facebook would follow buying the brand in real life (Attitude follows behaviour). That means the individuals interacting with your brand on social media are already buyers of your brand! 

The implications of this are huge.

If someone doesn't buy you, then they aren't going to 'like' you on social media. If they don't 'like' you, then your social media messages simply aren't reaching them. If you're not reaching them, then they aren't going to buy you. Ad infinitum. (Luckily you can still reach them on tv)

It actually makes a helluva lot more sense to post information about your brand on your competitor's page. That way you're reaching potential buyers, not existing ones. 

It takes a special kind of person to be 'friends' with a brand. Social media skews towards people who are loyal heavier buyers (Creamer 2012). Which simply means with social media: 

You're preaching to the choir! 

It's the equivalent of going to a Collingwood game and asking someone wearing black and white, sitting in the member's section, if they'd like to buy a Collingwood membership. It sounds dumb, but this is the limitation of social media. 

In the same situation, wouldn't it be more valuable to ask the same person what they thought about their current membership? Do you like your seats? Or who's your favourite player? Herein lies the power of using social media as a research channel. (And why it should come out of our client's research budget and not advertising)

The social media snake oil peddlers will jump on their soapboxes and sanctimoniously announce that they've harnessed the illusive power of word of mouth.  

This sounds freaking amazing! You can see how any marketing manager would love the sound of it, but it's just not a reflection of reality. 

People may talk about brands on Facebook, but the conversation definitely didn't begin there. The conversation more likely begun when someone saw an engaging TVC with content that stuck with them - taking us full circle back to good ol' fashion traditional media as the genuine spark to flame a word of mouth epidemic. 

Another claim by social media experts is its ability to encourage more frequent buying, which, of course, will positively affect the brand's bottom line. Let's consider this for a moment.

If it's your heavy loyal buyers you talk to on social media, and then you run an exclusive promotion, or even a memory-refreshing brand campaign, communicated only using social media channels, what can you achieve?

Well, not much, because the people you are reaching with these messages were already heavy loyal buyers to begin with (They had to be otherwise they wouldn't be friends with you on Facebook). They already know about your brand, and they were already going to buy it.

Presently, social media quackery has brands (our clients) adopting a pay and pray mentality. 

I've been at an agency, as would have you, which ran a whole campaign, for an FMCG brand, through social media. No above the line at all - not even on packaging. Even if it was successful it's hard to understand what it achieved. 

But, if you're like the social media agency I was at recently, then there's still hope that social media channels will be used smartly. 

If social media experts continue to promise the world and deliver Geelong, then as soon as clients realise that it's not the cure-all it claims to be, the bubble's going to burst. 

Creamer M, 2012. (Study: Only 1% of Facebook 'Fans' Engage With Brands) http://adage.com/article/digital/study-1-facebook-fans-engage-brands/232351/

By Christopher Ott

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