5 Reasons Social Media is Not a Waste of Marketing Dollars

Global Brand Strategist, Jonathon Baskin, contributed an excellent article to iMediaConnection recently titled “5 Reasons Social Media is a Waste of Marketing Dollars”. Mr. Baskin specifically identifies recent blunders by Old Spice, Ford, Pepsi and Burger to frame his argument. What these examples prove is that national brands are eschewing traditional media to fund social media initiatives. Social media can help to drive incremental sales and provide leverageable consumer and product-centric insights. Results are disastrous when outdated strategic models are applied to this social sphere. Here are 5 points presented in Baskin’s article:

Reconsider that brands exist

Brands are ideas and “…have no voice, reputation, attributes, or actions that aren’t the result of somebody doing something (or something happening to them).” Consumers don’t actually speak to brands, they speak about them. Consumers have the ability for much more valuable conversations. Brands are things. People consume them, attribute reputations to them and create personal expectations. These deeply personal relationships are key to the success of the brand. Social media provides additional channels of engagement.

Reconsider that conversation is good

The overall quality of this dialogue has declined significantly.  To have focused brand-to-consumer exchanges much more time and cost must be dedicated.   Much of the conversation happening online is useless conjecture of very little value. The best research is the kind that comes from direct conversations with your consumers. Social media is not the only place where this conversation can take place. It can provide value in terms of leverageable research and indirect influence. Too many brands say too many things that are not conversation-worthy.  

Reconsider the value of “friends”

It is wrong to claim that “friendship” equals an ongoing connection between brand and consumer (especially when they are provided a carrot to become Friend).   We need to start valuing how the consumer is engaged rather than the number of followers a brand boasts.  

Reconsider that complaints yield service

Customer complaints will always exist. Many brands have resorted to social media to quiet inevitable complaints instead of focusing the flaw. The best companies are proactive companies. Addressing complaints in the open is beneficial because it shows the angry customer that their feedback matters, and it exposes your brand to their network.   Capturing the complaints and remedying them makes a difference in building a brand’s reputation online. Why not use social media as a medium to directly meet customer dissatisfaction and then work hard to fix it?  

Reconsider that in social media, you actually don’t have to sell

Consumers want to feel connected. Brands use social media as a point of initial engagement – essentially the first step in a purchase process. Trust is gone. Loyalty is waning. Social media is peer-to-peer. Making it brand-to-peer hijacks the medium and calls its credibility into question. Here is the challenge: how do we monetize online engagements? Social media channels are the tip of the sales cycle. Brands should work to move followers from volatile social channels to brand-controlled properties. There, brands have the permission to expose consumers to a conversion message.

Re-examining award winning, but criminally underperforming efforts from Old Spice, Burger King and Pepsi, prove that even the most marketing-savvy brands can stumble when trying to leverage this relatively new medium. Most brands use social media incorrectly. Social media is great for research and product development and provides an excellent medium to inject your brand into a meaningful conversation. To expect social media to drive business like other traditional outlets is missing the point. It’s an entry point and should be positioned and used as such.

Michael Orpen, Program Design Leader

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