The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Anti-Social Media Marketing: Part 1

Social media cannot yet substitute entirely for other, more traditional forms of marketing.
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Marketing professionals are obsessed with “social media marketing.” Social media includes websites where huge numbers of users provide their own content and create connections and relationships by sharing information and following each other’s updates.

There are dozens, and perhaps hundreds of these sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, Spoke, ecademy, Classmates.com, Friendster and Flickr, where people exchange business and personal information, status updates, photographs, videos, news articles, political views, resumes, and endless amounts of other data.

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Social media marketing also includes the use of blogs, online videos, discussion forums and creating ways to allow customers to provide feedback and ratings on the pages of your websites. It’s tremendously valuable. Some organizations have done a great job getting real value out of their social media marketing efforts.
 
Marketing via social media is white hot — the level of excitement is off the charts. Without a doubt, there are massive marketing benefits available to marketers who can figure out how to harness the attention and preferences of audiences using social media tools. Everywhere you turn in the marketing world, people are promoting the value of engaging social media for businesses purposes.
 
Social media, however, cannot yet substitute entirely for other, more traditional forms of marketing. Recently, I was on an “expert panel” at a marketing event and the audience was breathlessly excited about social media. At one point, all of us panelists were asked to comment on the value of this new channel and when it was my turn, I stated that while I thought social media would someday provide enormous marketing value, I was concerned that people were focusing too much effort and attention on it.
 
I said that, in my view, there was probably no huge “first mover advantage” in figuring out how to market successfully via social media and that it was important to continue to utilize email, direct mail, direct sales, telesales, advertising and other channels for now. I said that people should make sure they stayed current with what was happening in social media and they should be constantly experimenting, but, since no one has yet cracked the code on measuring the results of these new opportunities, it was important not to get distracted from demand generation methods we currently use that we know are effective.
 
These statements won me a large number of dirty looks, and I felt like I’d just announced that I was predicting a major comeback in Yellow Pages advertising. Several people in the audience probably dismissed any notion of hiring my company to do marketing consulting for them and I think there may have been murmurs of organizing a lynch mob.
 
The odd thing is that I actually am very excited about the potential of social media marketing and we use it in my company every day. I just think that its value as a form of demand generation isn’t clearly understood yet and, since it’s not very measurable, it flies in the face of responsible marketing for most companies to devote inordinate amounts of resources to it.

Ian Heller has worked with distributors for more than 20 years, serving as VP, Marketing for Grainger, Newark Electronics and Corporate Express. As the founder of Real Results Marketing, he has consulted for many leading distribution companies, focusing on strategic planning and multi-channel growth initiatives. He holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

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