5 Reasons Social Media Is Ruining Marketing

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Mashable OP-ED

Alex Goldfayn’s book is called Evangelist Marketing: What Apple Amazon and Netflix Understand About Their Customers (That Your Company Probably Doesn’t). He is CEO of the Evangelist Marketing Institute, a marketing consultancy with clients that include T-Mobile, TiVo, and Logitech. Follow him @alexgoldfayn.

Social media is one of the worst things to ever happen to the discipline of marketing. The rise of Facebook and Twitter as marketing vehicles has spawned a generation of young professionals who talk instead of listen. They think engaging in “the conversation” is more important than identifying your audience, understanding what motivates them, and developing powerful messaging to address those motivations.

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Here's the reality: Social media has made marketers lazy, because so many people think it is the magic bullet for new sales. It’s not. It never has been. And it never will be. It’s just one of many available platforms for your marketing message, and you should use it as such. Don’t exclude it, be present there, but be present in a variety of other platforms as well. Here are five reasons why.

1. Social Media Builds the Wrong Habits in Marketers

With social media, quantity of followers often matters more than quality of followers. Likes start to matter as much as (and sometimes more than) buys. Marketers focus less on creating emotional language and more on comments and interactions.

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Ironically, social media actually decreases how much a company talks to its customers because they think a Facebook or Twitter exchange takes the place of a real, personal conversation. On the phone, you can ask a customer what they think and feel about your product or company. You can hear their emotion and choose to dig deeper, or move to another topic. When it comes down to it, a series of 15-minute phone calls with customers -- to really understand what they think, say, and feel -- simply cannot be matched by social media activity.

This is partly because social media marketing is so difficult to measure. It’s why one Forrester analyst said that “Facebook was getting worse, rather than better, at helping marketers succeed.”

Here’s another problem. Half of Americans think Facebook is a passing fad, according to an Associated Press-CNBC poll. Also, 34% of Facebook users spend less time on the site than they did a year ago. Eighty percent say they have never bought a product or service as a result of an advertisement or comment on Facebook. And just 12% would feel safe making a purchase through the site. Is this where you want to invest a large portion of your marketing budget?

2. Social Networks are Struggling

In the last few months, Facebook has lost market capitalization valued at significantly more than the current value of Yahoo, AOL, Zynga, Yelp, Pandora, OpenTable, Groupon, LinkedIn, and Angie’s List combined. Do you really want to invest your marketing budget into an area that can be this fleeting?

I’ve actually had a smart, accomplished, well-known social media personality tell me that social media is the new television. That ten years from now, I will realize how wrong I am.

Here’s the thing: There’s no guarantee that Facebook and Twitter will even exist ten years from now, in their current form. Don’t think it’s possible? I bet Myspace didn’t think it was possible either. Or AOL. Both were insanely popular not that long ago. Internet entities come and go, and if you want your business to last longer than that, then don’t rely on social media as the major focus of your marketing effort.

3. Social Media Is Useless for Business-to-Business Companies

Do you know of a high-level business executive at any firm of consequence who makes buying decisions based on what he sees on social media? If people wouldn’t by a TV or laptop or car based on social media advertising or activity, do you think there is any chance they’d buy professional services or equipment there? No. There’s no chance.

Business sales require relationships with high-level executives, who choose their providers based referrals and reputation. They don’t make their decisions based on what you say on Facebook or Twitter. Many of them aren’t even active participants there.

4. Social Media Leads to Neglected Messaging

Companies are no longer perfecting what they are saying before blasting it via social media. The best way to develop powerful language is to understand the emotion that makes your customers act. (Logic makes your customers think, but emotion makes them buy.) Social media, which is supposed to shine a light on customer tendencies, is actually creating a dearth of effective language. People feel like they have to constantly communicate when their business is invested in social media. So they communicate low-quality, ineffective messages. Non-stop.

5. There are a Number of More Effective Platforms

More effective platforms include: Direct communication to a good list of customers, relationship-based public relations, your company website, and your evangelists.

You might be thinking, but it doesn’t hurt, does it? No, being involved in social media, on its own, doesn’t hurt. Be on social media. But just remember it’s merely one of your many available platforms for marketing, and approximately in the middle of the pack in terms of effectiveness, Leverage it, so long as it’s complimented by a variety of other, more effective platforms.

This story originally published on Mashable here.

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