Is Social Media Marketing Overrated?
Social media marketing is here and it is here to stay. One would be hard pressed to find a company or organization anywhere that doesn't have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Both are a snap to set up and are free. So why not?
The real issue facing companies utilizing social media is not why not, but why? What does the average company expect from their social media? Is it to drive customers into their showrooms? Is it to encourage people to write checks for worthy causes? Is it both and more? Certainly. But does it really work, how does it work and how can results be measured? These are the critical questions.
The basis of social media marketing is completely opposite from what traditional marketing has been for the past 100 years. Until just a few years ago when people like Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) decided that people wanted a way to talk to their friends in a more efficient manner, marketing was a one-way street. It was rather simple. A company told the world how great their products and services are by purchasing advertisements. The target audiences received the message and acted accordingly.
But social media, in marketing terms, uses quite a different approach. Marketing via social media is predicated on the belief that a friend's recommendation is much more worthy, valuable and credible than that of a company. If a movie company advertises that their new movie is great, there is an inherent distrust simply because everybody knows they just want people to go see the movie. But if someone sees the movie, or more likely a free screening, and posts on their social media platform that they liked it, his/her friends are more likely to act and see the movie because a friend liked it. That is why companies and organizations work to engage audiences in their products and services via social media to get people talking about it. It is basic word of mouth but done on a huge scale where one person can tell 500 friends in one posting.
And those 500 friends can tell their 500 friends and so on.
The obvious downside is what if someone hates the movie? Often people are more likely to post dissatisfaction with products and services especially if they paid for them. And, dissatisfaction will travel just as fast, if not faster, than satisfaction.
The point at hand is a company or organization has to offer a product or service that resonates with a critical mass of people for it to get any traction. And it has to have a way to get its message out so people become engage in the product or service. That's why Pepsi puts Facebook.com/Pepsi at the end of their commercials not Pepsi.com. But the commercial they are running costs hundreds of thousands to produce and an equal amount to air on television. So for Pepsi social media has a strategic basis. They are moving people to Facebook to keep the brand visible.
But what about small organizations that can't afford to buy national television ads? They create Facebook pages instead. Unfortunately, many find that after a year they have all of 140 Likes. If a Facebook page doesn't have a critical mass of viewers or Likes, then how can it be effective?
Social media must be part of a marketing campaign but only a part. And expectations must be realistic. Too many organizations think all their marketing should be focused on social media. But if there isn't a strategic way to drive people to social media platforms, then who are you engaging?
Some say traditional marketing such as publicity, advertising and direct mail is dead. But just because social media has emerged, it would be a mistake to discount all other forms of marketing.
True, people may be in love with their computers and hand held devices, but social media should augment marketing, not replace it.