Social Media Doesn’t Stink (But Your Marketing Might)

Discussion
Oct 31, 2011

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

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t read at least one article that debates the inherent value of social media. The marketing community continues to hunt for the illusive formula that will neatly equate a brand fan or follower to sales. One article I saw recently actually suggested we go to the extent of sub-segmenting Facebook fans with psychometric precision to understand their underlying motivation for "liking" us in the first place. Is this even possible? And if it is, how do we execute on the information?

Let’s consider this whole issue differently for a moment. Let’s look at it from the follower’s point of view, but first, let’s clarify what a ‘like’ or a ‘follow’ really is and, more importantly, what it is not.

In and of themselves, likes, follows, YouTube views etc. are not exchanges. They don’t imply a commitment to buy or to maintain a long-term relationship with you. There is no promise of patronage or fidelity. All that fans and followers are granting is their "permission" to communicate with them. When they choose to like or follow, they are simply telling you they’re willing to listen. Ultimately, if your brand’s message is good enough, they may even be prepared to start a relationship with you — if you earn it.

So, what have you got to say?

Let’s start with that. Now that you’ve been given permission to exchange, what does your brand actually have to say to its followers? How will you enlighten, enthuse, entertain or give value to them? Will you design remarkable and creative messaging that they actually talk about or will you bore them with banal coupons, offers and other nonsense that goes largely unnoticed? Will you respond to their Facebook fan posts in real time with a consistent and trustworthy brand voice or will you allow posts to go unanswered, as 95 percent of wall posts currently do? Will you actively follow up on their complaints about your brand or will you ignore them like 79 percent of all complaints on Twitter are ignored? What will you do or say that is worth their attention? What value will you deliver?

In the end, how can we expect people who gave us a chance to wow them to stick around after we bore and disappoint them? If the majority of the marketing that brands offer is of low value, how can we possibly expect social media to pay us back with high value? Instead of asking what the value of a fan or follower is, we’d be wiser to ask what value we offer. Isn’t that where the value has to begin?

Discussion Questions: What are social media followers expecting from retailers and brands? What level and type of engagement will be necessary to satisfy consumers on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms?

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15 Comments on "Social Media Doesn’t Stink (But Your Marketing Might)"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

I’ve actually studied this a bit with one of my clients. The preliminary results of our initial work are public here.

The short answer is honest, open, personalized interaction — the three kinds of communication most big branders are not good at.

Check out those early findings. Sadly things haven’t changed that much.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
9 years 6 months ago
This is an interesting question. I guess I view social media, particularly Facebook, but Twitter as well, as big virtual town squares. It’s a place to connect with people you might never have the opportunity to chat with in person. So if you take the town square metaphor one step further, town squares are usually lined with shops and restaurants. What do the residents of the town square expect when they go into one of those shops? They expect to be known by the shopkeeper, to pay a fair price for the products they buy and to then leave and go back to their friends and business. They would not like it if the shopkeeper left the store with them, and kept interrupting their private conversations. I think the same thing can be said in answer to this question. The consumer expects courteous service, good products at reasonable prices, and then to be left alone. Being bombarded by ads while playing a game on Facebook, or tweeting away runs a continuum from annoying (when there’s… Read more »
David Dorf
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Fans want exclusive deals and offers that make them feel valued. These don’t necessarily always have to be discounts — they can be sneak peaks, polls, events, etc.

Successful retailers align their social media efforts to their overall marketing goals using strategies that make sense for the brand. There are many tactics available to engage customers at different levels, so retailers should select a few that further their strategies and not spread themselves too thin. Access to psychographic data can certainly personalize the experience, but retailers need to proceed slowly so as not to alienate customers that might feel their privacy was compromised.

Read more in the upcoming “ARTS Social Media for Retail Blueprint” to be released at the NRF Big Show.

Phil Rubin
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Social media followers are not that dissimilar to other opted-in customers in that they are expecting some amount of value in exchange for their addressability. That value can come in any number of forms depending on the brand and the specific customer.

While customers have generally failed to have their expectations met by brands via other channels, they hold out hope in social media that brands might act differently. The keys are relevance and responsiveness.

Relevance begins to pay back the opt-in and responsiveness recognizes the real-time interactive nature of social. Social actually raises the bar in terms of customer expectations yet, as Doug points out, marketers fail too often in meeting those expectations.

Dr. Emmanuel Probst
Guest
Dr. Emmanuel Probst
9 years 6 months ago

The key to maintaining a following is relevance. Consumers want to engage in a meaningful, one-to-one dialogue with the brands they follow. After obsessing on acquiring more followers, brands must now focus on maintaining their communities. The ROI is in the community, not the likes. Challenge: ‘likes’ can be acquired via tactical marketing pushes and easily translate into a one-off figure that can be communicated to stakeholders. In contrast, maintaining a ‘brand community’ implies long term commitment and ongoing efforts and investment.

Joan Treistman
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Remember that crazy word game we (it wasn’t just me) played as kids? We added the words “…under the sheets.” to every sentence to make the paragraph more exciting. The last paragraph in this article is missing a phrase at the end of each question, “…in social media?” Seriously, the questions being raised apply to marketing in general and I believe the writer is on the right track to question the viability of existing strategies for social media. What the article does not address are the actual numbers currently associated with social media. There is less opportunity than marketers would like to think there is. Part of the reason companies are playing ostrich with the statistics is that social media is cool, current and less costly. Going where the money isn’t in this case could be very costly in the long run.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 6 months ago

Head and Shoulders is doing some interesting things on Facebook. In addition to offering a contest (the promo), they seem to be actively engaging in chit chat with users that like the page. Users post pictures of their hair and other comments. Actual marketing messages are infrequent but the convo keeps going. I think this is the level of interactivity users are looking for. Not a constant barrage of commercials.

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

No, social media does suck. We’re losing the ability to actually relate and communicate to people preferring to click on ‘like’. Everything is an analysis. There is no love anymore.

Recently I was un-invited to a dinner party with the explanation that the host had sub-segmented the invite list with psychometric precision to understand my motivation and apparently I didn’t qualify. I don’t care what anyone says, that hurts. And I was even ready to add value!

David Slavick
Guest
David Slavick
9 years 6 months ago
Don’t jump into the pool if you don’t know how to swim. Source talent or hire a social media marketing partner that gets it. Social media is all the buzz and it should be for many reasons including its timely insight as to the pulse, feelings and opinions of its followers and even advocates. Doug is spot on with his advice and marketers need to have a comprehensive plan that has a beginning, middle and no end. Yes, no end. Once you get into it, don’t stop. Have a plan/service/solution as to how to follow up with both positive and negative posts. Build promotions that have fun/informative followup to the community of customers and have what’s next in your communications plan to sustain the interest, create new buzz and leverage what continues to emerge as a powerful media form. Cautionary word to the wise and powerful who authorize use of channel specific plans — don’t abuse social media as you have the opted-in email box with excessive send frequency week in and week out, thus… Read more »
Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Are consumers really looking for “engagement” “transparency” and “authenticity” on a social network? Or is it marketing types who are telling us that?

Facebook was about finding friends — animate objects. Perhaps Madison Avenue is trying to make their products into something they just aren’t — cherished friends.

David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

As a marketing and sales consultant to CPG clients of all sizes and in many different product categories, I am a huge advocate of deploying social media as a well targeted efficient means to help build brands and brand equity. What I am not an advocate of is doing it half way, or the wrong way, or in an inappropriate way. Social media needs special care and attention and needs to be put in the hands of real marketing professionals. Do it right and you will realize absolutely amazing results.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Social media followers are expecting brands to include them in casual conversations where information and opinion can be shared. The “Like” has very low value, in my opinion, as it is not even optional to follow a brand; it is the key that opens the door. Sure there are ways to track a brand FB page, but many offers are positioned as “to take advantage of, read our, join our…”Like” us on Facebook.”

That approach dilutes the value of a like as Doug explains and has zero or very low correlation to engagement or predisposition to purchase.

I would suggest a two tier approach. If the “Like” is to remain positioned as is, then offer a further opt-in once a page “fan” and then use that list, newsletter, or other medium to communicate real value and stimulate dialogue.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Today, nobody is saying it better than Bob Phibbs. “Facebook was about finding friends — animate objects. Perhaps Madison Avenue [all marketers] is trying to make their products into something they just aren’t — cherished friends.” The social media connection is not the same and will not be the same as any previous advertising vehicle. Folks, this is the end of brand marketing as we know it.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Ian is wrong: I loved every word he wrote.

Mark Burr
Guest
9 years 6 months ago
I don’t think consumers know what they expect from social media. In the same way, for sure, I don’t think retailers know what to do or expect from social media. In the meantime, a lot of money is being wasted by throwing darts at it. A lot of consultants whom know even less are making fortunes. Facebook, Twitter and others clean up either way. Retailers taking a measurable approach will likely succeed. It’s not a game to play just because you have to play. It’s a game to play to win, and winning takes a strategy, not just throwing darts. A lot of what is happening is that retailers are jumping off the bridge just because their competitors are. Remember what your parents said about that? I think something like this was originally quoted as “Haste makes waste, waste makes want, and want makes strife between a good man and his wife.” Most make the recommendation of good counsel before marriage. Retailers might take that counsel. Understand what you are getting into. Don’t do it… Read more »
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