Marketers, marketers everywhere. I have a question for you. How many "social media marketers" have ever been able to directly correlate their efforts with significant increases in sales for their client?
Wait wait, before you castigate me for challenging the "conversation" approach, I have to say the entire idea of a "social media agency" is counter, in my humble opinion, to the concept of social media. It is insincere at best. If you are a brand, and you truly care about what people in any channel are saying about you, why would you hire a third party of total strangers to monitor this chatter on your behalf? Wouldn't you want the scoop straight from the horses mouth? Wouldn't you want to "engage" these consumers yourself and show them you actually care enough about them to directly reach out? Why would you pay someone to talk to your customers, who has never lived your brand?
Whoa, before you say that companies have hired PR firms to perform this very task for decades, I would caution you to not confuse the traditional press and earned media with social media, at least as it is defined by a lot of social media agencies that have popped up in the last year. PR firms have handled a lot of communications tasks on behalf of corporate clients for decades, true, however directly conversing with potential and/or existing consumers is rarely one of them. That traditionally has been handled by CSR's, business development, customer relations or even a research group.
All of that being said, how many of those that claim to be a "social media agency" have a solid foundation in brand exploration, brand creation, operational excellence, B2B or B2C marketing and advertising? How about marketing research? How about generational marketing or psychological profiling experience? How about focus group organization, objective survey formation and analysis, focus group execution and results analysis? How about pricing methodology, attitudinal analysis, peer influence study, environmental impact analysis and the list goes on. I bet a few have, but most haven't.
The point is, I just read someone's proposal for a SXSW presentation on social media and they pitted social media against the rest of the web. Basically they claimed that they were going to present why the future of the web was going to be totally social, and everything else was going down the drain. The reasoning for this you wonder? This person made a very vague and general statement, with no qualifying data to back it up beyond an emotional and shallow plea based on terms like probably and I think. My response? How about an integrated approach with social filling a role, defined by audience behavior.
I am so used to seeing this kind of self-serving crap that I turn a blind eye, but this one was a bit different. Based on what I read, it was obvious this individual was drinking her own kool-aid and had no deep background in much beyond a twitter account and lots of reading on industry supporting rhetoric. It is too bad because social media has something to offer, however when presented the way this person did, it has no future for a marketer because it is left high and dry to fend for itself and the bombastic nature of the presentation proposal would turn off knowledgable marketers.
The general social media user - average joe on Facebook, non-techie, friend loving user couldn't give a shit about what Ford is doing on Facebook. They do however, care about their Ford getting them to work everyday without breaking down. When the Ford doesn't perform its task, and the customer gets ticked - enter social media. It is word of mouth on speed. When the Ford outperforms its task, enter social media. It again is word of mouth on speed. When Ford tries too hard to use social media because it is the cool thing to do - enter failure. When Ford hatches a complete marketing strategy that does not force fit social media, but secures a genuine supportive fit for social media, enter success - but don't lose sight that the average consumer does not yet care if Ford is on Facebook, unless the car breaks down. Repeat and rinse previous portions of this paragraph.
Integration is salvation for consumer brands. In this segmented world, being objective about channels is key, understanding your audience is a must and then a brand can select and execute channels appropriately for maximum success. Whether it includes social media channels or not.
Note to social media agencies who have declared all else insignificant - before you declare the death of other online strategies and executions that are not Facebook or Twitteresque social, take the time to understand what you are declaring dead. You might find that many social media outlets are simply more finite segmentations of the greater web that you are dismissing. The greater web that has generated phenomenal success for many many brands; dare I say to the tune of billions and billions of dollars - without the aid social media - a truly social medium, not necessarily seen as a preferred marketing channel by those that actually spend money on goods and services. Perhaps social is a fantastic research tool. Research that can help guide other, more direct and consumer accepted marketing practices and venues.
Perhaps it is still being defined. So much for the death of everything but social.