Over at Mashable, Todd Wasserman wrote a piece about most social media marketing being a waste of time. Todd’s premise is simple:
…a lot of the buzzword-laden blather around social media marketing the past few years was itself a form of marketing for self-conferred experts looking to make a buck off scared blue-chip companies. That’s not to say there aren’t bright, honest people plying their trade. It’s just that I keep waiting for one of them to have a Jerry Maguire moment.
He then goes on to use examples of why social media marketing (or most of it) is a waste of time.
These include buying Likes and Followers being pointless, how only the famous like Steve Jobs get customer service resolution on Twitter, and that brands aren’t publishers and that because of this, there’s an instant suspicion that brand content is merely a promotion for the brand.
While Todd makes some good arguments, the overall one – that marketing in social media is a waste of time – is a flawed one, for one simple reason: marketing is so much more than a sales and promotional tool.
Tunnel Vision and the Bigger Picture
The problem with Todd’s main point is that he’s using marketing in the truest sense of the word – to sell products (or, occasionally, service). While it’s true that the main goal of marketing is to instill desire to make a purchase, that’s the tunnel vision approach. There’s a lot more at stake.
For example, how do you get that desire in the first place? You need to know the audience and what makes them tick. How do you get that knowledge? Research. How do you carry out that research? Analytics, raw data and a shitload of legwork.
So immediately you’ve swung marketing away from sales/desire to knowledge and power. Let’s class that as the education part of marketing.
Takeaway: Use social media search and monitoring tools to educate your business.
Next on the list is knowing what the marketplace is ready for, as well as what your competitors are doing in the space or, more importantly, have planned. You can have the greatest product or service, but if you haven’t scouted the landscape then you’re launching something that may be a complete wet noodle (as my wife would say).
Intelligence comes from using the research you found while educating yourself in the previous example, and actually making sense of that data and what it means to you and your customers. It formulates your strategy and tactics from that, and ensures you’re as prepared as you can be when going to market.
Takeaway: Dissect search results and prioritize which platforms you should be on, and when.
3. Profitable Effect
One of the biggest takeaways from any marketing campaign is how effective it makes you as a business moving forward.
Results can show you what message worked and what didn’t, and help you answer the question of branding and positioning. They can also highlight strengths and weaknesses of a team and help you allocate better resources.
When you start to become tighter as a business, you have an immediate return on cost through savings – from money saved from poor targeting to money invested back into the parts of the business that need it.
Takeaway: Using social as another channel of your business (customer service, recruiting, etc) allows costs and time to be cut and used elsewhere.
The Best Marketing Isn’t Even Marketing
This is why Todd’s piece in Mashable is a little misplaced, even though good points are made. I completely agree that buying popularity is dumb and will backfire; and yes, brands often boast of their awesome customer service but then appear to service only the chosen few.
But then that’s pretty much true of business in general, and not just limited to social media.
Taking marketing at face value – as purely a sales or purchase-led tool – also limits the real potential of what marketing can offer. It’s like saying PR agencies just do press releases, when there’s a whole scope of activities and disciplines behind the scenes.
Marketing on social media isn’t a waste of time – it just needs to be viewed the right way.