Mark Ritson has chosen to court controversy in his latest column around why social media should not be an automatic choice for marketers. He set his stall out immediately when he said he winced when every brand manager concluded with a major part of the spend going on social media.
Mark, it is safe to say, has his reservations when it comes to social media 🙂 So is this a post by someone showing he is past his use by date?
Plenty of people in the comments and on twitter believe so though Mark is merely making the counter argument to the hype around social media. The same happened previously with virals, “useless” banner ads and second life. None of which makes either camp correct, though in the comments he admits there is a middle ground that is the better approach:
“Perhaps most marketers are already aware that social media is being over-promoted and that ultimately it has to be integrated into the existing mix where there are certainly many synergies between traditional and social media.”
The trick like all forms of marketing is to understand what the channel provides – Mark chose to give some excellent examples of companies who have not got it wrong (Eurostar, Southwest Airlines) – I could add a few more to that list (Nestle, Habitat..) and others that he believes should not be using social media (Rentokil, Hellman’s mayonaise).
The difficulty is in getting the approach right – social media is not an easy channel to succeed in and worse it is difficult to measure today. Like all new marketing techniques online; it takes time for the tools to catch up.
Social Media is a platform that allows for dialogue and a way to encourage user to user conversations. This is something the best examples of companies using social media have figured out. I think the point Mark should be making is that if you haven’t figured out how to both have and also generate conversations online then you shouldn’t be creating those facebook pages and twitter accounts in the first place. Think it through first and understand why you should be there. What is the benefit to the user?
There are plenty of companies who you would either expect to stay away from social media or who you might think do not need to even be there but take a look:
- Domino’s Pizza UK has approx 30k people on their Facebook page and regularly getting feedback from their customers – how much would this information have cost in the past? Mark talks about how small the numbers are in social media but in reality these are either your most loyal brand advocates (and who will help with those user conversations) or transient dissatisfied customers who you should be listening to anyway. Both are a valuable commodity to a marketer.
- Shipserve are leaders in the online marine supplies & online marine chandlery business. Why on earth would people want to be involved in a LinkedIn group around this particular niche. They are.
- Starbucks has been a bit of a poster child of social media advocates. The Next Web really tells the story well enough. Read it here. I still cannot figure out why someone would want to be a fan of a coffee shop but then I am not a coffee nut 😉
- Finally a good example of adapting Social Media to work for a bank is First Direct’s Live campaign. See it in action here. It is an almost real-time view of what people are saying about First Direct on the web. At the time of writing 77% of people are saying positive things – I am not sure any of the other banks would be so willing to try this campaign!
You need to have good service capabilities to succeed in social media.
What this all boils down to is if you’re just starting out or thinking you need a social media programme, plan and/or experiment in smaller niche areas (if possible). Social Media is not good for campaigns only. Be prepared for the fall out if you don’t have a plan in place for the negative comments you are going to receive and be prepared for an even worse outcome in social media.. silence.
Social media should not be taking up a major part of a everyone’s marketing plan by default today but that doesn’t mean it is not an important part of the mix. Of course for some companies it could well be the entirety of their marketing budget – it all depends on a company’s specific needs. The important thing to figure out is where your company sits in that spectrum.
Wherever you sit today, I would expect budgets to grow year on year for pretty much all companies as consumers and businesses identify the best companies for their needs more quickly through the use of social media tools.
To be silent in social media is a death knell for companies.
image source: elycefeliz