Why Social Media Is Useless If It’s Not Useful.

By Posted in - Marketing Advice & Insight on March 13th, 2015

Before the Internet, marketing failure was much easier to measure. People (customers) still liked to be interrupted (by adverts) and if they didn’t like what they were being interrupted with, sales of products and services went down and someone got fired, usually the ad agency. Now we don’t know whom to blame – SEO, Social, Digital, PR – and we don’t know what went wrong and where. We are pissing in the wind and doing so looking through a glass darkly. Social Media has become a mirror of distortion for many marketers and that’s a shame because, done correctly, it can generate a level of amplification that traditional marketing methods cannot hope to match.

The truth is, many of us (marketers and clients) don’t really understand the customer and we don’t know how to measure success on the rare occasions when we get genuine engagement. We are also not exactly sure how the marketing funnel works in this age of online and digital marketing. I was chatting with the marketing manager of a famous car brand recently and he said something about ‘the blind vanity’ of social media. “We are dazzled by self-importance,” he said. “We value quantity over quality and we mistake (brand) acquaintance with (brand) friendship. The ratio of direct (customer) relationships to total people in your (business) social network must be frighteningly low.”

The truth is likes, retweets, follower counts and other similar vanity metrics do not translate into sales. They just don’t. In addition, brands only reach a very small percentage of their customers on social media, which renders the efforts (and investments) on social media a waste of time. Evaluating social media in terms of brand awareness creates a metric without tangible market outcomes. The problem with a lot of businesses is that they have not adapted their thinking to the new digital age. The marketing landscape has changed dramatically. It used to be that marketers could produce a piece of content, put money behind it and get people to see it. This doesn’t work today. Millions of pieces of content compete for people’s attention and viewers have absolute control over what they want to watch.

So a brand’s content has to connect with them emotionally and with relevance and those two factors are fluid. People change, wants and needs never stay the same. Customers don’t always use logic to buy. There is intangibility about decisions. That is why the most adaptive and innovative marketing is the one that will survive. Consumers no longer welcome untimely interruptions from brands, but now have the control to “pull” them into their lives as and when they wish. As Unilever’s global senior vice president of marketing, Marc Mathieu, says, it’s about recognising that people don’t want to be interrupted, yet choose to interrupt themselves. By this, Mathieu means that consumers increasingly choose to visit a brand’s properties when it is relevant to their lives, rather than wait passively for an ad.

Our social media strategy should be about building direct relationships with people, but we need to do it across all platforms and here lies the greatest challenge, which is being able to measure the impact of the sum of them all. Stitching together and understanding the bigger data picture is one of the biggest opportunities for marketers. It’s the ability to understand how useful we are in people’s lives, said Mathieu. This has a level of authenticity and relevance through the times and places and ways in which we (a brand) show up. It is complex, but we need to understand how it works if we are to understand how to use social media effectively.

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