Recently, there’s been a heated discussion on the marketing and communication board of LinkedIn based on the premise that social media is a joke. The group is mixed as to whether social media is a valid marketing strategy or a modern version of the Emperors New Clothes.
The fatal flaw in this argument is the notion that somehow social media, or by extension, social networks are to blame the tool either being beneficial or a joke.
In fact, social media is simply a TOOL of marketing strategy and it is the PEOPLE who use it who are either a valuable extension of marketing strategy or a joke, not the tool itself.
Social networks are online tools that allow users to share aspects of their lives, from the important to the mundane.
The rise of online social networks has been attributed to the decline of communities in the “real” world. Large numbers of people were attracted to these virtual communities, including more that 500 million on Facebook alone. People started sharing more than pictures of their families and events and started sharing attitudes toward the things in their lives, including the products surrounding them. Occasionally, when people shared product information or attitudes, they went viral — affecting the behavior of a large number of people in a short period.
This online behavior enticed marketers to consider how they might harness the power of social networks in support of their brands.
So far, everything was going well. Unfortunately, once several companies talked about their success in using social networks to make their message go viral, everyone wanted in on the game. And, supporting every econometric theory since before Adam Smith, once people believed they could make money through viral marketing, droves of people flocked to social network marketing. This is where the problem began.
Translation: its not the tool that’s bad it’s the people using the tool.
When someone uses a hammer and hits the nail badly, do you blame the hammer or the hammerer.
When someone uses a hammer to attach a cabinet to the wall and it falls, do you blame the hammer, or the hammerer.
This is the equivalent of blaming social media for being a joke — its the operator who is a joke. The tool works just fine when used in the right way for the right job.
The second part of the argument is that social media isn’t real because you can’t measure it.
Certainly, its difficult to assess the success of your social marketing strategy — there’s no denying it. You can measure number of fans, number of followers, etc, but what impact does this have on your bottom line. But, couldn’t you say that of almost every form of marketing communication?
How do you assess the success of your advertising? Recall? Awareness? Do these translate to your bottom line? Maybe; maybe not. Its just as unclear whether these tools have some ability to affect your ROI as social media.
So, do you just throw up your hands and stop all forms of marketing communication? Of course not. That makes no sense at all.