Don’t Believe the Hype

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Back in April, I came across the blog post “Who Killed Social Media Marketing” on Digital Tonto and finally decided to share it with you (and provide my thoughts). The post trumpets the decline (and “planned” resurgence) of “Social Media Marketing” and heralds the onset of “Social Network Marketing.” By providing annotations, the post does a wonderful job of connecting observation with advanced network theory. (If you can stomach discussion of Bose-Einstein statistics and Euler equations, read more on network theory here).

Greg Satell very effectively connects social media’s current state of affairs with the “Gartner Hype Cycle,” noting that as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have risen to the forefront of the social media landscape, social media itself has passed its “Peak of Inflated Expectations” and has entered into a “Trough of Disillusionment.

Hype-Cycle-explained

This echoes what I was saying in my own, previous blog “2011 – the Year to ‘Processitize“: the hype curve for social media was being propped up by very vocal social media marketers who really didn’t understand marketing or social networks and often equated a large personal following on (insert social channel here) to a viable business model.  What I call “me-toos” have really dug up some bad press for social media marketing lately, and rightfully so. Sadly, where I thought the flurry of me-toos was ending, it looks to be picking up steam and turning off more and more businesses to the real value of social media as a channel.

I’ve spoken about our NetCentered concepts in many of my blog posts and how no one marketing silo should be over-, or under-considered for a business’s marketing mix. Going back to December 2010′s “MySpace is Dead… and Other Fallacies,” where I share what happened to me when a local business chose not to project up-to-date information on the Web, this latest discussion is no different: you need to go where your customers are, engage them (with a sound business case), and measure your effectiveness. Where social media struggles is in effectively converting the conversation into business. Typically, when the actual costs of a large-scale social media marketing campaign are compiled, the campaign is found to be prohibitively expensive – virtually all overhead; you must have someone tweaking, posting, etc., for your company, in your voice. And if you don’t have a solid strategy in place to track effectiveness, you may very well be spending disproportionately, perhaps seeing no return on your investment – or even experiencing a loss.

My opinion differs from the original article in that I believe social media marketing is far from dead. I also find dubious the proclamation that Social Network Marketing is becoming the focus of a future plateaued social marketing landscape. As the Hype Curve shows, social media marketing will end up on its “plateau of productivity,” and for many businesses and legitimate agencies it is already there. ROI can certainly be calculated with the proper analytic tools (and the  knowledge/experience to use them) as part of a contiguous (NetCentered) marketing strategy. Satell clarifies his position later in the comments area and states that it is possible but very difficult to effectively track SM ROI. He also points out that, in practice, most or the “ROI cases” he’s seen are an “absolute joke” – the me-toos strike again.

As for social network marketing, as technology makes the (frighteningly) large amount of personal social data more available to marketers, it will surely trickle into the hands of small businesses. I believe, however, it will have its own independent Hype Curve and relinquish itself to the realm of big business budgets for quite some time. In the end, maximizing your effort is about determining your goals for any outreach program. Social Media Marketing is just one piece of a larger puzzle. It can be cost-effective in helping small-to-midsized businesses build buzz and generate sales. Or it can be a total waste of effort.

Getting the results you want won’t be easy; social media marketing doesn’t magically work on its own. It’s up to you to take the first steps. Study real-world cases of social media  successes and failures, then start small by listening and observing what your competition is doing. Get to know your customer base within the context of each social channel and start engaging them with quality content. Don’t over-think your posts, but at the same time, don’t make light of your effort – time is money, and wasted time is … just wasted. Build your brand and your fan base. Get help setting up the metrics and analytics you need to determine your effectiveness. Learn how to isolate your traffic streams. And, above all, make sure you have a strong Web presence to drive traffic back to you for both informational purposes and conversion.

In short: Don’t believe the hype, make your own.

See additional Social Media Marketing blog posts and additional information on our Social Media Consulting Services.

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