Social Media Marketing is Failing

Jonathan Salem BaskinLast year, I wrote a post in response to Jonathan Salem Baskin, taking exception to his notion that Social Media could be dangerous for companies. (I actually agreed with him on many counts).

This time – in my opinion – Mr. Baskin nailed it. Every company has been jumping on the social media bandwagon, increasing marketing spend in that arena, but few are seeing the returns they had hoped for.

Burger King has grilled through a couple of CMOs and fired agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky after producing Facebook campaigns and viral videos that got lots of attention while the business witnessed six consecutive quarters of declining sales. via AdAge

At conferences and with colleagues, I’ve challenged them on numerous occasions to provide me with irrefutable evidence that social media campaigns can be carefully designed, planned and executed with an expected return on investment. The key here is expected… I can set expectations from email, pay per click and search engine optimization campaigns over time… but never social. We’ve not uncovered the magic algorithm to tap into the social psychy yet.

It’s not that I don’t believe there’s value in social media… I do. But I think there are two key elements of leveraging social media effectively:

  1. The company wishing to leverage social must already be social! Inviting everyone to a conversation and then not responding, hiding, or trying to spin the response can do more harm than good. Many, if not all, of the successful social media campaigns that pundits write about belong to companies that were already social… before the mediums ever hit.
  2. The company wishing to leverage social must have an effective online marketing strategy already in place. That is, they should have great sites, solid blogs, high converting landing pages, great search engine authority and an effective nurturing email strategy.

If you’re trying to leverage social media before you’re effectively utilizing, for example, a nurturing program to close leads that you’ve already developed a relationship and who are subscribed to you… you’re simply nuts. It’s much easier to close business off of established relationships than to throw some fancy, expensive application up on Facebook and expect a better response and return on investment! (Dueling chickens didn’t help sell burgers.)

I believe that social media is an amplifier. When you want to amplify a message – you must first have a relevant message, an audience to distribute it to, and a location for those listeners to come. Get all of your other branding, inbound marketing, search engine optimization, and even corporate blogging in place before you start throwing money at an expanded social media program!

I don’t believe social media is dead as a marketing strategy… I just think it’s always been misdirected as a center of a strategy when it should not be.

16 Comments

  1. 1

    Douglas, I couldn’t agree more with your deeper analysis. “The message is the (still) the message” irrespective of medium, right?

    Jonathan

    • 2

      Somewhat, Jonathan… I do think each medium has intent associated with them and requires the message be crafted to target that recipient. For example, a search for ‘buy remanufactured iPad’ should land where the person can immediately make a purchase… but the message for a Facebook Ad may be ‘iPads remanufactured with warranty’. The intent of the search is to buy, the intent of the Ad is to garnish some unexpected attention.

      Great article! I’ve been waiting for someone with a bully pulpit to begin taking some swings at all these jokers out there selling ‘engagement’. 🙂 It seems when the unemployment is high, we’re saturated with marketing consultants. And when they fail as marketing consultants, we’ve provided this new thing called a ‘social media consultant’.

    • 3

      Somewhat, Jonathan… I do think each medium has intent associated with them and requires the message be crafted to target that recipient. For example, a search for ‘buy remanufactured iPad’ should land where the person can immediately make a purchase… but the message for a Facebook Ad may be ‘iPads remanufactured with warranty’. The intent of the search is to buy, the intent of the Ad is to garnish some unexpected attention.

      Great article! I’ve been waiting for someone with a bully pulpit to begin taking some swings at all these jokers out there selling ‘engagement’. 🙂 It seems when the unemployment is high, we’re saturated with marketing consultants. And when they fail as marketing consultants, we’ve provided this new thing called a ‘social media consultant’.

  2. 4

    Doug,

    I have been searching for that word… amplifier. That nails it. Social media budgets should not go overboard and there should be objectives that are meaningful, but the computation of ROI is dubious at best. I don’t think of social media as a selling platform and provably companies that try that find little return and little engagement. Companies that go into their space knowing their market and talking about their markets issues and attaining “thought leadership” etc… develop meaningful brand awareness that occasionally can be leveraged for sales but more than likely just affects them at decision time.

    An example would be shoe companies if you follow Toms shoes on Twitter and also Nike shoes you might see Nike post about an Air Jordan comeback shoe for just $100 a pair and you might also see Toms Shoes post about the difference a pair of shoes can make in a childs life and how they are working with the goal of putting a shoe on every pair of feet on the planet. When you go to the shoe store and see Toms Shoes next to the Air Jordan comeback which conversation is most likely to come to mind? My money is on the seemingly selfless conversation about how you can help meet someones basic needs is going to make a more lasting impression than the conversation about $100 making you feel like a teenager again.

    Just my 2¢

    Karl

  3. 5

    Very well articulated Douglas, and right on the mark for so many companies.
    Your piece wonderfully articulates the ongoing need for integration of a firms marketing activities across a number of fronts. For the internet in particular, I really like the potential automated marketing systems like Hubspot offer, as they touch on all the points you mentioned.

  4. 6

    It’s also important to engage the audience on a more personal level, which may be hard for larger companies to do. How do you create relationships with millions of potential clients? How do you attach them to your product rather than your competitors, if the only thing that sets you apart from each other is price? Personality, and relationships. Big companies could be “past” or “above” social media with the exception of utilizing their social networks for polls, and releasing special savings deals. Just my .02

  5. 7

    It’s also important to engage the audience on a more personal level, which may be hard for larger companies to do. How do you create relationships with millions of potential clients? How do you attach them to your product rather than your competitors, if the only thing that sets you apart from each other is price? Personality, and relationships. Big companies could be “past” or “above” social media with the exception of utilizing their social networks for polls, and releasing special savings deals. Just my .02

  6. 8

    Dear Mr. Karr,

    This is spoken from someone that has done how many social campaign initiatives? I wonder. I’m not going to praise you for jumping on the anti-social media bandwagon. All your co-horts can find whatever meaning in this that they will but I think you’re doing what the general populous does and seeing what you want to see. While yes social media does galvanize bad press: http://bit.ly/bad-press – that’s simply function of a tool keeping you honest.

    Yes, to be sure that social media is a powerful tool than can backfire. And yes, you’ve sited enough self-protection points to not be fully committed to your point. But this blanket statement is nothing more than panic fire.

    Leveraging ones social graph is still in every way new to advertisers and traditional marketers. They understand PUSH, BIG, NOW, SALE, FREE, DANCE! And it’s not simply “engaging in conversation” it’s understanding community, participation and natural brand brand lift through consistency of messaging.

    I agree there have been failures. But certainly now more or less deployed across traditional mediums. Oh and BTW, it’s “Subservient Chicken” not dueling chickens and if you’re still talking about it – than it worked.

    Respectfully,

    JusticeMitchell.com

    • 9

      Hi Justice,

      Currently, all of our clients have social engagement as part of their overall strategy. As well, it’s an important part of my online marketing strategy as well. I’m not ‘jumping on a bandwagon’. Talented marketers who have to get results for their clients don’t ‘jump’. We figure out how to properly leverage a medium rather than abandoning working practices because Wired or Inc point to the ‘next big thing’.

      And Subservient Chicken was an epic fail – a great example of poor marketing. Attracting big numbers of an irrelevant audience is NOT what a marketer should be after.

      Doug

      • 10

        This is a practical response, but is not reflective in your original document. And I also agree with your assessment that we leverage the medium(s). Kenneth Cole, Groupon, Red Cross, Ford and every successful brand that has ever ventured into social has had to confidently face adversity quicker than ever before in RT. But you’re right there is no “magic algorithm” nor will there ever be a way to predetermine the any given demo’s reaction to a integrated campaign and hope to cut them off at negative pass (as it were) with social media.

        So ‘why is social marketing failing’?

        Subservient Chicken:
        15 million hits the first 5 days
        7,000,000 broadcast impressions
        450 million hits

        Man I wish I could do as poorly as that. Playa’s gotta hate!

        Best ~

        • 11

          Hi Justice,

          If impressions can pay your bills, I suppose thats great! For Burger King, that wasn’t the issue – that’s why the campaign was abandoned and the agency fired.

          Doug

  7. 12

    If social marketing is failing you or is not actually helping you, then at least look for something that will replace social media. Look for automated systems that can help you out in your marketing strategy, Just like what I have found in advancedwebads. the service provides unlimited banner impressions and clicks.

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