Why do so many marketers still not get social media?

I suppose I should begin this post with a clarification that to a large extent I don’t much like the use of social media for marketing purposes.  I should add that this isn’t marketing in the true sense of the word, where companies attempt to understand their customers better and then respond to their need (the epitome of sense and respond).  For that purpose social media is fantastic.  No, I have a bee in my bonnet about the use of social media for advertising purposes, ie when companies populate as many social networks as they can, and push out their content blindly to as many people as they can reach.  It’s taken the old school advertising rules associated with TV advertising and applying them to a social platform.  Not cool.

Anyway, that little grumble out of the way, I was sent a report last night by Awareness Inc about the state of the social marketing industry, so I thought I’d check it out.  Here are a few of the key takeaways from the report.

1. Measurement is still an issue

Finding from the report: The report reveals that 53% of marketers are still doing absolutely no measuring of their social media work at all, with around the same number citing ROI as the key challenge they face.  It’s a poor indictment of what so called marketers are doing, that the primary measures of ‘success’ still consist of the number of fans you have, and the number of visits to your website.

My thoughts: That in itself does not surprise me at all because so much of the ‘marketing’ done on social media remains of a transactional variety.  There are still huge question marks for me as to where social media fits in the buying process, and with last click wins still the predominant measuring technique, it’s perhaps not surprising that social media doesn’t do so well when you are looking solely to drive purchases.  I’ve said many times that if you’re looking to measure ROI on social you have to be smarter about it and bring it all back to a clear purpose for your community.  That purpose should revolve around how you’re going to help community members.  Tie that into a business objective and it makes measurement much more relevant than the usual counting of likes or followers.

2. Marketers want to be everywhere

Finding from the report: Things don’t get any better the more you delve into things.  The report reveals that 66% of respondents want to increase their presence across a wider range of platforms.  To perhaps understand this desire you need to see that almost the same number want to increase the amount of content they push out via social media.

My thoughts: So in other words they’re not building communities at all, they’re just pushing content out to as many people as possible, on as many platforms as possible.  I dare say this shotgun approach will make it even more difficult to determine the ROI they complain about in the previous section, because there is clearly no purpose to their presence on any social network.  It begs the question, why do you have to be on every social network out there?  Last year I provided a 5 checkpoint list you can use before deciding whether to join a new network.  By focusing your efforts on a smaller number of networks, not only do you make it easier to get the purpose right, you therefore make it easier to measure success or not, and you can then go to your boss with evidence of success and demand the resources needed to spread out further (if that makes sense).  You should never feel compelled to use a platform just because it’s there.

All in all its a rather depressing and predictable insight into how so many marketers have failed to grasp just what social media is about.  It’s done little but confirm my view that marketers in their current form are an enemy of social media, as they do so little to add real value to the space.


11 thoughts on “Why do so many marketers still not get social media?

  1. Never dissipate your power. Hit a few key network daily. Engage. Share content. Ask questions. Provide answers. Take these steps to become a social media powerful. Thanks Adi!

  2. So it seems, it's a similar situation to in-person networking:

    1 – people don't know, measure or even seem to care, where the best return for their investment is. and that leads to them,
    2 – expanding the networks they either join or attend events.

    We're just moved issues to a different platform: online social media and networking.

    If they still haven't grasped it in-person, do you think there is hope that there would be a revelation online? Thanks for the post.

  3. When you think about it, social media is still a quite a new thing (relatively speaking). I think it's normal that marketers don't get it yet.

    What we are seeing now is mostly an adaptation of other formats of marketing to the social media space.

    Hopefully, marketing is going to evolve to find a new shape that will perfectly fit the social media arena.

  4. Very interesting report – my only comment to your conclusions would be that I often encourage clients to test out multiple platforms before they make a determination about how to allocate social resources. Sometimes you just don't know what traction you'll get before you dive in – particularly on social. Your instinct might tell you that your stakeholders are most likely reachable on LinkedIn, but in fact, a ramped up presence on YouTube ultimately drives traffic to your site most effectively. In these early days, I think a bit of a trial and error approach is warranted.

  5. Great post as usual. I think that many marketers are used to the old approach to social media similar to the approach they had pre-social media days. That approach called for aggressively pushing your message without actively listening to your community. It was a one-way approach with little interaction from customers and the people receiving the marketing message. Unfortunately, I think that it's going to take a few more years before everyone is on board with how social media is the exact opposite of this one-way system.

    • Yes, you're right Gazalla. Maybe it will only really change once people infused with social start making it into the boardroom. In the meantime we'll have to survive with a few outliers that know what they're doing and use social media effectively.

  6. Completely agree here….I am tired of trying to have "real" conversations with seemingly "in touch" companies only to find that they are no better than spam email campaigns but using social media instead…

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