The seven dumbest sins of social media

Read Marketing Week editor Mark Choueke’s response to Ritson here


It’s relatively low cost

Not really. First it’s amazing what brands are now paying many of the newly created social media agencies. And even when the costs are relatively low, most brands aren’t comparing the costs of engaging in social media with the opportunity cost of spending that money elsewhere on less cool media options. If you have opted for a social media budget that is going to be allocated exclusively on Twitter and Facebook, you are not budgeting or planning your marketing properly.

Yes, but look at the ROI you get

You are almost certainly not able to prove the return on your investment in social media. That’s not my view, that’s the opinion of many social media experts.

Most marketers now have first-hand experience of sitting through an impressive presentation on a brand’s new Twitter or Facebook strategy only for it to end prematurely with pretty pictures and some audience data but no actual evidence of how this actually drives business fundamentals. Too many marketers have forgotten that if you cannot demonstrate ROI you should not be committing your organisation’s money to it. To do so makes you incompetent at best and potentially liable to accusations of malpractice at worst.

Social media is about more than ROI – it’s about conversations/dialogue/community*

Wrong! It’s about making money for your company. Last week, Tesco’s new group digital marketing officer Matt Atkinson announced he wants digital marketing to “enrich and add value to the customer journey”. What he should have said is how he can use it to sell more tea bags and panty liners.

As Pepsi’s recent disastrous results have demonstrated, when you forget you are in the business of selling cans of pop and start spending your cash on building communities and supporting causes you get crushed by your red and white competition.
*Delete as appropriate

What about all the successful case studies of social media impact?

First off let’s not confuse the incredible impact that social media is having for interpersonal and celebrity communications. But when you look at the evidence of social media success with brands alone, the case studies start to dwindle. There are still some impressive examples, such as Expedia, but as Columbia University’s Duncan Watts points out: “There is an enormous tendency for marketers to only notice successful case studies of social media and forget the huge number that fail completely.”

Social media is a new platform that changes all the old rules

Oh no it isn’t. It’s certainly an interesting new option for a small number of brands, but it’s been hugely oversold. And when the facts don’t stand up to examination, its exponents have created new arguments based on nonsensical facts.

To demonstrate this point, take a look at Barry Bridge’s impassioned response at the bottom of last week’s Marketing Week article on social media’s lack of ROI in which he introduces an entirely new form of ROI called “reverse ROI”. Absolute and total nonsense.

You are missing the role of social media as a source of consumer insight

Again total bollocks. Would you trust a research method that excluded 90% of the population? I’d say that was entirely unreliable data and yet that is the proportion who don’t use Twitter in the UK. Maybe you can use social media for some half-decent qualitative insights into a small minority of the market but you can get these insights without actually engaging in social media yourself. Three focus groups would be cheaper and more insightful.

If it’s so pointless, why are so many big brands doing it?

Most brands do social media because most other brands are doing it and, as we know, anything new and cool is usually irresistible to marketing managers under 40 (who are naive) and over 40 (who are paranoid at looking out of touch).

The problem also stems from the media who cover the launch of new apps and social media campaigns like they are life changing moments in marketing strategy. But then don’t cover the entirely piss-poor results that 95% of them achieve. Next week’s column will illustrate the point by looking at the five most piss-poor social media campaigns.

Really. I mean it.

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