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Is Social Media Killing Brands?

Is Social Media Killing Brands? image 20130208 152644That’s the finding of Don Shultz and Martin Block of Northwestern University. Based on a massive study comprised of data from over 10 years, these professors show evidence that social media is killing brands.

Stop the Presses

Social media killing brands !!!!!!!

Their finding suggest businesses should SHUT down their social media and dampen the flow of brand mentions across social networks.

Of course, this finding flies in the face of data from other reliable sources, including Michael Stelzner’s yearly report about the state of social media. In that report, and many others, marketers say they’re getting good results from their social media marketing efforts and plan to increase spending to achieve greater returns.

So, what gives?????????????

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Is social media killing brands?

In a word, NO!

So, relax and continue your social media marketing strategies. But, if you want to know WHY this data is wrong, read on.

Data showing social media killing brands

First, the data doesn’t show what it claims to show. No big surprise there, except this comes from Northwestern, normally a highly respected school with a stellar research record. Not to condemn the researchers, but I think they let themselves get fooled by the amount of data into a sense of security that didn’t allow them to question the data, itself.

Their belief that about the brand killing potential of social media is based on asking users (primarily Facebook users) about their brand preference. Drs. Shultz and Block found heavy Facebook users didn’t have strong brand preferences and that brand preference drops with increasing use of Facebook.

Now, on the surface, that seems to support their notion that about social media killing brands. But, dig a little deeper and that finding is harder to support.

1. Who are the heavy users?

Likely, they’re younger than non-Facebook users and light users. After all, who has time to spend hours each day on Facebook? Teenagers and young adults. And, we know from other studies that these folks tend to be less brand loyal — even if they DON’T use Facebook at all.

2. Self-report data

Self-report data is notoriously unreliable. In fact, top journals are reluctant to publish data from self-reports unless it’s supported by other, more objective data. Also, we don’t know what product types were used in asking about brand preference. Maybe they’re not products users care about.

3. Data and findings haven’t undergone peer review

In academics, this is the gold standard. Do other knowledgable academics think your findings worth publication. In this case, the paper hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet. So, the jury is still out regarding whether the finding of social media killing brands is supported.

What does social media killing brands mean for brands?

What I think their data DOES show is what most knowledgable social media experts have said all along, “social networks are for social, not brands”. If you plan a social media marketing strategy designed to send commercial messages through social networks you’re bound to fail.

Drs. Schultz and Block find only 11% of users want to hear about brands on social networks. Great. I can buy that.

If you can’t spread your message on social networks, what are you supposed to do with all the resources you’re planning to commit to social media marketing?

Be authentic

Don’t be commercial. Be a real person who’s part of a real community. Provide value to the community.

Create great products

No one respects a company or brand that doesn’t put the customer first and work every day to give customers the best products (and services) they can.

Don’t interrupt

Social networks are about being social. Don’t interrupt the conversation to shout about YOU. Talk about THEM.

Learn subtle influence tactics

Cialdini (and others) show how the subtle art of influence gains cooperation from your community without interfering in the conversation or using pressure to gain compliance.

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Comments on this Article: 4

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  1. Ashley says:

    Thanks for pulling apart this silly methodology. Even if there is any credibility to such research, it’s brands that kill brands, not social media. So tired of people blaming social media for business problems.

  2. Lets not miss the crucial point – both of the original study; and the review here. It isn’t just business – it’s people (aka Social media marketeers) can kill brands by overt commercialisation of a medium that exists to be social – not commercial. And that should deter those those who advocate using Social Media for business purposes from much of the wilder hype.

  3. It doesn’t seem like the findings for that study prove that social media is killing brands. Rather it may raise doubts that people use social media as their primary source for brands and products, but that doesn’t mean brands aren’t benefiting from social media.

  4. social media killing brands? it may be true to a certain degree (also including the fact that social media is afterall run by people) i believe that are a lot more serious factors (product, competition, etc) that kill brands…if u ask me social media a brand killer??….ummm m still not too sure about tht.

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