BrainTrust Query: Social Media Can’t Save You!

Discussion
Mar 28, 2011
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Through a special arrangement,
presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail
Prophet Consulting blog.

There’s an epidemic taking place. Brands big
and small are rushing into social media. In many cases, several months down
the road they find themselves disappointed with the results and disenchanted
with social media in general.

Case in point: I was recently speaking at a conference
to a full auditorium of marketers. I asked how many of them were doing some
degree of social media marketing. Most of the hands in the audience went up.
The next question was: "How
many of you are disappointed with the response you’re getting." Again,
most of the hands in the room were raised. And this is usually the case. I can’t
tell you how many other businesses I speak to that have a basic Facebook fan
page and a Twitter feed and not a lot of love or money to show for it.

It’s
my experience however, that these problems rarely have much to do with the
value or effectiveness of social media. In most cases, the problem is that
brands simply aren’t in shape for social media in the first place.
They lack definition, position and purpose. Their story is lackluster and their
consumer value nebulous. In some cases, internal communication is so poor that
it makes outward communication almost impossible.

Here’s the thing. Social
media is not a modifier; it’s an amplifier.
It doesn’t change your brand’s voice; it just turns the volume
up to eleven. If your brand has nothing to say, no story to tell, social
media will only amplify the uncomfortable silence. The result will be that
every tweet, post and update aimed at building community around your brand,
will simply confuse, disenfranchise and disappoint more potential followers.

Breathalyzers
can be installed in the ignition systems of cars to prevent drunk driving.
It’s too bad we don’t have the same kind of apparatus
available before starting social media programs. In lieu of something more
sophisticated, here’s a very simple brand sobriety test. If you fail,
don’t turn
the key on social media!


  • If you didn’t work for your brand, would you care that it existed?
  • Do you have a product or service story to tell that people should even
    give a damn about? Something that excites inspires or entertains?
  • Can you articulate your unique value in one or two short sentences without
    using jargon?
  • Will what you share with people be so valuable, interesting or remarkable
    that they will not only notice it, but also enthusiastically share it with
    others?

If you don’t have solid answers to these four basic questions, then social
media won’t save you. In fact, it might hurt you.

Gary Vaynerchuk, author
of The Thank You Economy, recently said, "There’s
more original content created today in 48 hours than there was from the beginning
of time until 2003." In other words before you tap customers on the shoulder,
you better have something valuable to say.

Discussion Questions: Do you agree with the author that many brands lack sufficient “definition, position and purpose” to reach customers through social media? Are many only exposing flaws around their brand’s ’story’ or ’voice’ in pursuing social media? Or should social media be used as a rallying point to improve a weak brand?

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30 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Social Media Can’t Save You!"


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Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
10 years 1 month ago

Definitely–a lot of retailers are simply creating a fan page and sitting back, waiting for the magic to happen. Besides accepting that for the most part, most social networking benefits are still of the “soft” variety, retailers need to realize social networking success relies on heavy engagement and connecting the social network to the “real world” through contests, regular postings that invite feedback, cross-promotions, special discounts and offers, etc.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

I think the question underneath the question is “Do you know what problem you are solving?” If you do, letting people know about it via a fan page is a good idea.

In today’s world, there are plenty of ways to “go viral” but you do have to know why you matter to people. That’s true for retailers, tech providers and every single one of us. Once you’re clear about that, I think you can build your brand via social media (after all, a SERIOUS Facebook ad campaign can cost about $10 a day).

You just have to articulate why you matter.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Great point Doug. I think we have to be better publishers of content. So many brands use their social media as yet another coupon delivery device. Stories are integral to being able to hold on to fans.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
10 years 1 month ago

Social media is a communication/marketing vehicle no different than older solutions like billboards, TV, radio, magazine and yes, web advertising. Just like an ad on the radio that uses descriptions that would only be effective if seen not heard, you need to use the correct message when leveraging social media.

I recently attended a Food Institute conference hosted by St. Joseph’s University. David Rich, the CEO and President of ICC/Decision Services, was a guest speaker. He along with other guest speakers including Rick Brindle from Kraft Foods talked about amazing approaches to using social media to drive a brand’s exposure and market position.

Like most things in life, if well planned and executed, social media can help drive brand recognition and exposure. No need to turn up the volume to eleven if the channel is filled with static and the person delivering the message is speaking a foreign language most consumers would struggle to translate.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

I’m wondering if most brands, whether it be durables, CPGs, or retailers, are even in need of social media. How many of us care about any of the brands we buy or use or shop at? We care at the time of purchase, then we’re done with expending psychic energy on this decision (to the extent that we devote any energy to this).

I suspect that social media can be a useful tool when the object has some measure of newness or trendiness (fashion, for example, or other products that sell on image, a new bar or restaurant perhaps). But let’s be honest, nobody is engaging with a new dishwasher.

Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Most brands struggle with social media because they try to use it to sell, rather than engaging in a dialogue. This may be a result of not having a strong core story that is well known throughout the company or it could be from habit. Marketers are trained to sell, not dialogue. It takes a concerted effort to refrain from selling to successfully engage consumers in social media.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 1 month ago

Great article, Doug. Social Media serves as a perfect example of Lincoln’s famous quote: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Unless and until you have something compelling to say, better to invest in getting that than broadcasting that fact.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Not so fast. There are other reasons social media does not work or work well. The target consumer may not be participating in social media, they may not even be internet connected. The target consumer descriptions may be too general or broad. Social media requires a narrowly defined segmentation. Last but not least, the expectation may not be supported by the program or effort.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 1 month ago

With so many brands bombarding the air extolling “why they really matter” it can create a condition that raises doubt if a certain brand really does matter. The “brand” in usage is its own best spokesman and consumers tend to gravitate to that conclusion. Me thinks that social media can’t save a mediocre brand.

Rick Moss
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

While I agree with most of your points, Doug, I wonder if social media couldn’t be an avenue for “self-discovery” for brands that are seeking a stronger identity. These platforms should be about two-way communication and so you may be over-emphasizing the need to produce original content (which is, of course, important, but not everything).

Playing devil’s advocate: could a brand use a Facebook page to help mold a new brand strategy by reaching out to consumers with surveys and contests to get a stronger feel for how its products/services are perceived?

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Marketers continue to use an advertising mindset for social media. They have not been able to, or they have refused to see social media as something quite different from the media we have known. Social media is not about advertising your brand. Social media is about making connections. Social media is not broadcast. It is niche targeting of niche targeting. It is one-on-one and in the control of the receiver, not the advertiser.

Marketers will continue to have difficulties with social media until they change their mindset and understand they are not in control.

Dan Frechtling
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

I agree with Stephen and Frank. First ask whether you need a social media effort at all, then, if you do, invest moderately. Don’t expect the world.

Although brands try to act like friends, they’re not. People don’t rush to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to be moved by brands. They communicate with friends and family and old acquaintances. It saves remembering email addresses or even personal information.

People “like” brands to get free stuff. Fully 40% want discounts but only 13% want to interact (ExactTarget).

There are too many brands for frequent engagement. The average user follows nearly 10 brands (Mashable). The average comment from Skittles, a top Facebook brand, only draws Likes from .05% of its followers and comments from .004%.

Not having a Facebook page or Twitter feed is like forgoing a website. Many brands need a presence if only to communicate. But not getting a “response” or deep engagement may not be your problem. It may not be too low a proposition for your brand, but too high expectations about visitors.

Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 1 month ago
Maybe the adequate question is, in the absence of social media, would you say it any other way? Are you already saying it in some other way? Are you receiving positive results with the same message or even a narrow portion of the same message? The issue may not be what retailers are saying either broadly or narrowly. The issue is likely whether what they are saying is a compelling offer to begin with. It also may be whether or not they are delivering what they are saying. Consumers have far too many choices. They have little time for a retailer that talks a talk that they are incapable of walking. Many have much to say and little to deliver. It simply added noise to an otherwise mediocre offer to begin with. If you shout to the world that there is a reason to shop with you versus all of the other boundless alternatives, you had better be able to deliver. Otherwise, it’s just unwanted noise. Consumers today hear the message through a spectrum of… Read more »
Sam Horton
Guest
Sam Horton
10 years 1 month ago

Social Media efforts are often times used as an “end-all, be-all” for many marketers particularly smaller companies that don’t have the budgets or desire to invest in comprehensive campaigns to compete against their competitors. For instance the “Didja know” tactic is often used… Didja know we offer xyz; Didja know we just got a new shipment of abc, Didja know the new hot group Miley Brothers will be playing at… This alone won’t cut it, unless you have already built a relevant brand, or as Doug put it, passed the sobriety test. (Doug, I ask your permission to use this–I love it!) Social Media can be very effective to help establish a relationship with your customer, just as Streaming, TV, Radio, Print, In-store marketing, and the plethora of vehicles available to us.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 1 month ago

Rick.. you make a good point. It isn’t always all about developing original and brilliant content.

Having said that, even if a company wants to launch in an effort to explore and gauge consumer preferences, they need to earn peoples’ time and interest. With thousands of brands out there wanting us to take their survey, enter their contest, join their fan page or try their trial size etc., brands need to give us pretty compelling reasons to come on board.

Joel Rubinson
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

A quiz… Q: why does Coke have 23MM fans on Facebook? A: because it’s Coca-Cola, damn it! The point is that social media is a form of seeking information and personages out. You need to be a force of attraction already to be found. Hence, Doug’s point about amplifier? Check!

Now, here’s another thing. When people talk about “being in social media” more and more that is starting to mean “being on Facebook.” Big mistake! A tiny percent of fans to a FB page actually visit the page in a given month so it really isn’t an engagement platform, it’s a broadcast medium. If you want engagement, do some heavy lifting and create a meaningful, owned-media website.

Gregory Connolly
Guest
Gregory Connolly
10 years 1 month ago

Corporate social media is like high school sex. Everyone is talking about it. Everyone says they’re doing it; few really are and if they are doing it, they’re doing it badly.

Everything starts with the strategy. The tactics, of which social media is just one, must support that strategy. Good comment earlier on internal communication. So many companies cannot speak clearly internally which is only amplified in their attempts at external communications.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

The article said “social media is an amplifier” of what you have to say. An amplifier of your message. If you have nothing significant to say; that is what will be heard…nothing. Gary Vaynerchuk was also quoted. Here is a man who stated telling of the virtues of wines to promote his family-owned retail store in New Jersey. He has become a loud voice in the social media world. I am reminded of the oft repeated quote “build it and they will come.” True enough. If you build it they will come; but only if you tell them why they should come and where it is. If not, nothing will happen.

Doug Fleener
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Great points Doug. The rush to social media reminds me of the same experience we had with ecommerce. Companies rushed in to it without even understanding what their strategy is, what their customers wanted, and many of them ended up commoditizing their own products.

Funny how many experts are telling companies of all sizes they have to be doing social media. No they don’t. They should if they have something to say, but as you point out it’s an amplifier and not a modifier. (Love that line.) It’s easy to talk at people, it’s a lot harder to engage, involve, and connect with them.

Now if only some people I know had that Breathalyzer on their Facebook and Twitter accounts….

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

There are at least two topics at work in this article. 1) The value of your brand, and 2) The effective use of social media. Two very different issues. The good news is that the value of a brand can elevate significantly with the effective use of social media.

A lesser-known or even a brand that one may find less significant in our daily lives can be catapulted to celebrity status. The Top 100 Twitter accounts comprise 90%+ celebrities, however Whole Foods Market has made a strong statement with almost 2 million followers. Coca-Cola has the second-highest number of Facebook Fans. This world’s most valuable brand only reinforces their status with meaningful posts and offers on their page.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Using my own journey with social media as an example, I can still remember the day when I thought “I have a Twitter account, but what in the world do I have to say?”

Now, I find Twitter, Facebook, and other sites to be sources of valuable information, channels for sharing thoughts and information I think is valuable, and–taken as a whole–the efforts are paying off in improved search results and inquiries from potential clients.

The premise of the article here is correct, if you have nothing to say, or the brand has fundamental issues which make it unattractive in market, the use of social media will not solve those problems.

One other key learning from the article should be that brands know the tools exist, but need legitimate leadership and guidance in how to put them to use. With so many self-proclaimed “social media experts” online, brands are challenged to sift through the pile to find people who can really help.

Help does exist and a well conceived social media marketing strategy can yield good results.

Roger Saunders
Guest
10 years 1 month ago
Social media is more than just a fad. It is part of the media lives of consumers, just like traditional media of television, radio, newspapers, magazines, outdoor, etc. And those media are part of the mix that INFLUENCES consumers’ purchasing decisions. Brands and marketers have to see over 30 different media forms–in-store, word of mouth, blogging, e-mail, and mobile belong in the mix as well. Each of these has to work with the strategic and marketing objectives of the brand. Just as the days of “Let’s put 50%+ of the brand into TV, have lunch, and then we’ll figure out the rest of the Media plan” are over, it remains equally important that Social Media is blended into the mix. “Rushing into Social Media” is not the answer. Social Media won’t be the be all/end all answer for every Brand or Category. In some instances, it will play a larger role, in others, it will be minuscule. Starting with media mix and allocation, as to how media influences the purchasing decision of the consumer has… Read more »
Robert Heiblim
Guest
Robert Heiblim
10 years 1 month ago
I do not completely agree here as it would mean that social media is “only” for big brands or somehow “interesting” brands. However, that is not the case; if it was, they would not exist. Any company that actually sells things to consumers should be able to leverage social media so the problem is not existential, but rather one of deployment. As others have noted, a lot of companies simply post a Facebook page and wonder why no one cares. As stated by others, hiring a 24 year old with tattoos in NOT a social media strategy. However, if you do sell then you do engage with consumers and EVERYONE wants some attention. Yes, you may not get 23MM fans, but so what. You should only care about those who care about you, so go ahead and give them a reason. This can and often should start small and scale. Companies that get nothing out of social media are generally not engaged, it is not a prime function and it is not iterated. Iteration, commitment,… Read more »
Phil Rubin
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

The challenges many marketers are having with Social Media are not that different than many other “below the line” marketing activities.

Social is not an island any more than loyalty or relationship marketing but it suffers some of the same failures, including:
1) Lack of clear objectives – social is too often a tactic in search of a strategy
2) Employing a push or advertising strategy rather than one that is designed to engage customers in a dialogue. Social is as much (or more) a channel to listen to customers first, rather than simply an amplifier.
3) No or minimal integration with other marketing activities. Like so many other activities, when they are not done in unison,they sound like noise to customers, rather than a brand symphony.

Given the nascent state of Social, it’s only a matter of time before more marketers grasp its potential, as many are already doing.

Joan Treistman
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

I couldn’t agree more. The glitz and glamor associated with social media has marketers falling all over themselves to be where the action is. And this author tells it like it is. Many social media experts say their turf is like the “Wild Wild West” for the time being. If the cost of entry was not so little I doubt we’d see the rush. However, as the author suggests the downside risk of not knowing what to do and how to do it right can damage a brand’s equity.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

For 100 years, brands and retailers have largely relied on spewing noise into the marketplace, with the exception of their own 15 or 30 second slots, which were managed proprietarily with the assistance of the pros. The advent of social media just encourages more spewing of noise. It’s only a matter of time till pop-up blockers are followed by more sophisticated noise filters for social media. Noise comes much more naturally to brands and retailers than, you know, actually SELLING! 😉