the end of social media

Is this the end of social media or a new beginning?

For the past couple of weeks we have seen the social media ball  bouncing back and forth. Social media is the greatest revolution in marketing. Social media is just the latest fad. There were a string of article claiming that social media is in fact “dead.” (A nice headline trick I decided against using.)

In What Is The Future Of The Social Media Role? I declared the end of the beginning for social media in B2B Marketing. And I have already described how organizations need to integrate social media into the marketing mix as well as into the DNA of our organizations.

What do you think? Are we seeing the end of social media or just the end of the hype? Read on to hear an overview of thoughts from three respected minds in marketing as well as my own view…

In Ad Age’s Do Campaign Failures Signal The End Of Social Media, Jonathan Salem Baskin (@jonathansalem) spent most of his 921 words signaling that indeed the end may be near. He points to the fact that Pepsi is falling behind Coke after it’s widely publicized move away from the Super Bowl to a social charity campaign. He also mentions that Burger King has fired it’s agency despite relative success in gaining social media attention but not sales. Jonathan says:

Every CMO should use this occasion to pause and reflect on the assumptions that were behind these efforts, especially if you’re about to roll out a social-media campaign or start giving away content for free.

But after refuting and anticipating all the arguments against his position, Jonathan defines his true mission: to end the silliness and start getting smart with social media. He advises:

CMOs need to discover new ways to do the old things that still matter: Offer products and services that someone truly needs, admitting that you want to sell stuff to them, and then properly serving them after they’ve given you their business.

Always happy to throw social under the bus, The Ad Contrarian (@AdContrarian) took it a bit further in Social Media’s Massive Failure. In the article, contrarian author, Bob Hoffman points to a number of Pepsi business results as “proof” that social media has ruined the company.

While I truly enjoy reading The Ad Contrarian and appreciate his attempts at keeping us all honest, I think he stretches this argument too far. The sales and market share figures he conveys cannot be fully attributed to the company’s social media efforts.

To round out this review, I would like to bring your attention to Social Media Is Failing by Douglas Carr @douglaskarr who states that he does believe there is value in social media as long as companies are already social and have already made the transition to the new online marketing reality.

His main point is that social media is an amplifier that requires a company with the DNA to take advantage of it. He concludes with this advice:

I don’t believe social media is dead as a marketing strategy… I just think it’s always been misdirected as a center of a strategy when it should not be.

I advise organizations to look at the participation figures below and ask these questions:

  • How many of your potential customers use social media?
  • How do they use social channels when making purchase decisions?
  • Have you earned the right to engage them on these channel?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Want more? Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog today!

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the Head of Strategy for the leading content marketing platform, NewsCred. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to B2B Marketing Insider by Email

22 Comments

  1. Rob Leavitt said…

    Hi Michael — Saying social media marketing is dead because certain campaigns have “failed” or at least not been wildly successful is like saying that advertising or email marketing are dead because they didn’t work in certain situations. We’re still very early in figuring out how to integrate social into marketing, especially in B2B, so of course there is lots of experimentation, lots of hype, and lots of “failure.” And the sad reality is that a great deal of marketing of any type simply isn’t that good, so why should social be any different?

    As always, good strategy, good people, and good execution will win in the end, and we’ll see that emerging with social over the next several years as we all settle down and, as you’ve said, get past the hype. We’re at the end of the beginning, and the overwhelming numbers of people worldwide integrating social into their everyday lives (work included) means that we do indeed have to get a lot more focused and serious about doing it well.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Hey Rob, I couldn’t agree more. I still believe the world has changed and that internet users expect more of a social experience even in or especially in B2B. So we have to provide that experience, starting with strategy and a real desire or mindset to be more “social.”

  2. Jeffrey Ogden said…

    Great post, Michael, and you make an excellent point. Ranting about whether or not social media is dead or thriving is irrelevant.

    The only questions that matter : Do they use it? Do they trust it? Do they give you permission?

    Amen!

    Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
    Find New Customers
    http://www.findnewcustomers.com

  3. Tom Scearce said…

    Michael-

    A well-researched and insightful post. I’ll freely confess to not reading each of the articles you’ve referenced in full, but of the three bloggers you cite, I’m most drawn to Douglas Carr’s POV, and can also see merit in Baskin’s. I think the mania (positive and otherwise) around social media is partly a function of marketers and analysts failing to put it the proper context. I don’t know if I have the cure for that ailment, but I’ll give it a shot.

    I group media into thee broad categories: owned, influenced, and paid. Most manifestations of media (people, collateral, web properties, online and offline display, direct response, phone queues, etc…) can be tagged to one (sometimes more) of these categories. Social media fits — when used in compliance with FCC regulations at least — most logically in the ‘influenced’ category. Influence is most valuable when it’s earned. And we earn it in at least two ways (a) good social skills and citizenship and (b) a good message / good product <– it's ultimately hard to have one without the other.

    Social media is the hardest media to phone in or mail in, and even the cleverest social media strategy / execution won't paper over a bad product or a poor customer experience. This truth may also be a factor in the constant hand-wringing you describe over SM's future – we struggle to make it predictably bend to our will, so we treat it like we would treat other things in life that are unpredictable, e.g., stocks or futures contracts. We are tempted to try and get a leg up on the Social Media phenomenon by announcing ourselves as "sell short" doubters or "buy and hold" evangelists. Works for some folks (e.g. Malcom Gladwell – short-seller, Chris Brogan – buy-and-hold), but for most of us, it's just one part of a well-balanced marketing portfolio.

    Interesting stuff – and btw, thanks for RT'ing my Focus contribution last week. :)

    Tom

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Hey Tom, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I think you are on to something. Social really is an “earned” marketing value. So it starts with “paying out” in the form of a positive social experience and then provides a return, mostly in the form of insights, referrals, competitive advantage, etc. I’m not sure we’ll see too much direct selling over the social channels in B2B but I believe the cost of NOT being there is simply too high. Bottom line is like most marketing, the value is hard to track, being good at it is hard to do, but neither of those are enough to justify staying away. We are even seeing brands being punished for having a lack of social presence. But you are absolutely right when you say we need a well-balanced portfolio and an integrated approach.

  4. Michael, I thought your essay on the end of the beginning for social media in B2B marketing was spot on! Every example you give for the utility of social media is an extension of or enhancement to existing business behaviors, which I think is the a-ha realization for social strategy overall: the availability of social tech tools has more in common with the invention of telephones than some Harry Potter-like magic wands. Integrate the tools into the enterprise we must and should, but the days of approaching it like the rules of physics and reason have been upended are (happily) coming to an end.

    JSB

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Jonathan, thanks for stopping by to comment and I have to say I am truly grateful for the inspiration. Your analogy really hammers the point home. Social is here to stay and it needs to become an integrated and serious part of what we all do in marketing and advertising and customer service and across our entire business every…single…day! I’m happy to see the hype disappear (along with the social media rock star and his arch-nemesis the nay-sayer).

  5. Brit Tucker said…

    Great post! I think Douglas Carr’s point hits the nail on the head. Companies need to realize that social media should not be the center of their marketing, it should augment or support traditional outlets. And, I don’t think social media marketing is dead – I think it is failing, as companies are continuing to figure out how social media fits within their business model.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Brit, I believe social media is a challenge but is very much succeeding in many places. I have seen companies who have become more engaging, more customer-focused and more “social” as a result of all this and they have benefited in many ways. The ROI question is often just a delay tactic because for many organizations the implications are too big and far-reaching. Imagine a customer sitting in on every strategy session we have and providing input. Would many of us change our perspective? You’re darn right we would. Social is forcing companies to consider these implications and that’s why it’s time to get very serious. Thanks for your perspective and keep up the fight ;-)

  6. kenny said…

    End of the hype! The bottomline is to engage your audience on their terms regardles of a label.

    Most b2b IT marketers have jumped on the social media bandwagon as a pancea to getting attenmtion and leads. I have my facebook page, twitter account. I’m doing social media : whhooo hoooo. Hmmm 2 weeks later. so where are all my leads and sales then ????

    I spend several hours every day with 1.4 million IT buyers who spend Billions on IT products and services. The disconnect is massive between B2B IT marketers and the Technology buyer still. The funny thing is social media is what traditional sales and marketing should have been.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      That’s right Kenny, check lists are not the right approach. It goes to show you that social media is not about play books and how many channels to hang a shingle on but it’s truly an attitude. Do we have what it takes to let the customers in? It’s a struggle we have always had in sales and marketing but one that is becoming more transparent. And the pains can have a much greater impact. I’m hopeful we can close that disconnect or the next generation of marketers will do it for us.

  7. bob hoffman said…

    Michael,

    First, I appreciate the nice things you said about my blog.

    However, where you got the idea that my post about the Pepsi Refresh Project (“Social Media’s Massive Failure”) was meant to be “proof that social media has ruined the company” is beyond me.

    My post was about one thing and one thing only — that Pepsi’s Refresh Project was the first real test case for a major brand implementing a massive transfer of marketing resources from traditional advertising to social media, and to date it has been a huge failure.

    Neither social media, nor any of the other foolish marketing moves Pepsi has made, have ruined Pepsi. Hurt them? Yes. Ruined them? Far from it.

    Nor do I state that Pepsi’s terrible business results are “fully attributed to the company’s social media efforts.” As a matter of fact, in a follow-up post I suggest that their crazy “re-branding” effort may have been an important factor.

    Nonetheless, one would have to be delusional not comprehend that a substantial part of their failure has to be attributed to Refresh. Their CEO certainly believes that.

    As for the subject of this post — the future of social media — here it is. The social media silly season is almost over. Intelligent people are starting to realize that social media is not magic, and that all the preposterous claims made for its supernatural powers are mostly nonsense.

    Social media will become a cost of doing business — like business cards or websites. Every company will have to do it to keep in touch with customers and to push out special offers or promotions.

    It will quickly evolve from baloney to business.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Hi Bob, That is exactly why I like your blog because you throw a cold shower of reality on all the hype.

      What I question is if we’re over-reacting to Pepsi’s decision to move away from TV and focus on Refresh. I’m just not sure the results you cited (sales, brand share and rank) are due to Pepsi’s marketing decisions or larger factors in the consumer carb bev world. Having spent years analyzing “baseline” vs “promotional” sales factors, there appears to be an erosion of the baseline brand sales. I don’t think we know if the brand erosion is due to the re-brand or if the re-brand is a defensive reaction to the brand erosion.

      Nonetheless, I will agree they may have over-reacted to abandon TV and that is what their CEO will address.

      And I agree in your prediction for the future of social media. It is a cost of doing business.

      But I also believe it can be a source of competitive advantage, not just for the early adopter, but for the companies that accept that a Brand “lives in the mind of the consumer” and that there is some level of co-creation that has always existed for the best brands.

  8. Josh Peters said…

    Definitely the end of hype. This happens with everything new as it comes out, esp technology and marketing. There is a craze over it, everyone goes off the deep end extolling it’s virtues, we see colossal failures and amazing successes, and then the tide recedes and we figure out exactly how it will help and where.

    Websites had the same problem, email had the same problem, heck I wouldn’t be surprised if billboards and catalogs had similar problems. As the hype dies we will get more and more focused on what it REALLY is and how it can REALLY help the business.

    The world as a whole and how we connect and communicate is changing. The whole world isn’t on board with doing things the same way you and I do today, but it’s moving that way. Billboards, ads, tv commercials, and radio spots still play an important role because they reach different audiences much like social media reaches a different audience than PPC, SEO, Email, and Affiliate.

    It’s all part of the new marketing mix and there is no one silver bullet that hit everyone. If there was then we wouldn’t need marketing departments only a marketing person.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      That’s right Josh, it takes an integrated approach and a true understanding of what elements of the marketing mix are working for which objective.

  9. Gibson Goff said…

    I think social media is great for awareness. But to effectively market? I equate 140 character tweets to 10 sec ad spots. What can you really effectively do with 10 seconds other than raise awareness.

    The other side of the issue is that social media gives everyone a chance to voice their opinion. To talk about it. They may talk up a storm about your product. But have they heard one word? Or simply finding another spot to inject yet another opinion?

    Talk doesn’t create sales. Calls to action create sales.

  10. Michael Fox said…

    Michael (great name),

    This is certainly a topic that is bound to draw extreme opinions, and one or two more middle-of-the-road comments.

    Mine falls in to the latter category. This is something I wrote about elsewhere. My sense is that social media is not dead and may never be. However, the use of social media as a novelty, or differentiator, is dead unless an organization takes steps to apply their social media presence in an innovative way. Throwing up a Facebook page or using Twitter, or writing a blog, in a plain vanilla way, is about as exciting and imaginative as using email. There is an expectation that a company will have these things, just like there is an expectation that a company will have a web site.

    We all know a great ad when we see it. Think of all the hype and attention that goes on around the Super Bowl ads. Sadly, the majority of ads are entirely forgettable and make no difference in our lives. Same with web sites. Same with social media. When TV ads first hit the screens in people’s homes, they were a novelty and drew vast sums of ad revenue from companies wanting to get images of their soap powder in to family living rooms. How long ago was that? TV advertising is mostly a utility, part of a broader, coordinated marketing campaign.

    Web sites moved from novelty status to utility status some time ago. Social media is following the same path. What makes some company web sites stand out above the others? Innovation, smart execution, a coordinated approach to marketing, a reason for visitors to come to the web site and receive something of value. So what makes social media programs more successful than others? The same things – innovation, smart execution, a coordinated approach to marketing etc.

    The age of liking a company on Facebook being cool, has come and gone. Today, a company needs to demonstrate effective and innovative application of social media, ideally with some measurable and tangible benefit to a target audience, for that social media program to be relevant.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Michael! I think the question is whether a person thinks social media is just another channel or has changed marketing in some significant way. I think it’s both. I think companies can differentiate if they take social media for what it really is: an attempt by our customers to tell us what they want and how they want it. This is really nothing new as companies have been trying to understand consumer insights since the first enterprise was launched. But with social media, the scale is now in place for a large company to accomplish this goal.

      So something that really resonates with me beyond the “social is just another channel” argument is the fact that companies can differentiate if they have social DNA, a social attitude, a mind set to allow the customer in. To me that is what is meant by “getting serious” with social.

      I do appreciate you stopping by and giving everyone your point of view…no one really knows what all this means. Together we are all trying to figure it out.

  11. Isaac Hunt said…

    Dissapointed with what promises to be interesting, thought leadership style content and yet (for me) does not hit the mark – and you posted it multiple times on your twitter account. If this was a statement to sound the death knell of SM then why use twitter to promote it? On the other hand, if you’re promoting discussion then this article regretfully relies on other people’s content to make up the mainstay. May I suggest rethinking for future posts to include your own opinion instead — otherwise it appears to the casual observer as vague and open ended commentary with no conclusions, which some could take as someone who has no opinion (which I’m sure isn’t the case).

    And for the record, my opinion of SM: Like any communication channel it has positive and negatives. Let us consider email marketing which marketing types jumped over and then spoiled it for everyone where we are all now numb to the 100′s of marketing emails every day. SM as we know it today is a comm channel that is driven by the consumer, not the corporation. SM in the enterprise is still in its’ infancy and has challenges proving true ROI, regardless of what your SM vendor will say. It’s not just the software, but a culture across enterprises which, certainly for legal depts is one they find hard to accept and incorporate – the risk vs the benefit in their eyes means they will typically push back on it.

    Therefore we have a long way to travel on the SM roadmap. Marketing folks should consider the mistakes they made with previous channels and instead approach this as a measurable way of knowing their consumer feedback – and in the case of B2B, creating trust components between companies by breaking down the barriers such as legal and so forth. Culture in businesses has a long way to change – and typically culture changes take ~5 years – so we’re about 3 yrs out of a more widespread adoption.

    B2B SM isn’t dead; instead it’s still in its’ diapers.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Isaac, thanks for the feedback. I always appreciate constructive ideas to help make the content better.

      I believe I’ve stated this in a number of other comments so at the risk of being redundant I will emphasize that I do not believe social media is just another marketing channel. It is, as you say, forcing cultural changes and is still evolving. While I believe for most companies in unregulated industries the legal challenges have been resolved, the bigger issue is with company leadership, even many marketers themselves.

      Bottom line: fish where the fishes are? Sure. That should have been resolved a year or so ago. But now companies need to seek out ways to incorporate social business across the enterprise.

  12. KvX said…

    Social media is here to stay. At some point, the next big thing stops being the next big thing and becomes just another useful tool and that is where we are about to arrive at with social media.

    There are also gender issues at work here as social media is female dominated. Using it to market products to women will be more successful. Guys come into social media actively at first but over time begin to treat it more like email. Something you check once or twice a day but not something you spend a significant amount of time on.

    Text based communication of all kinds lacks the excitement of face to face interaction and ultimately some form of direct video communication will reduce the role of text communication methods. As fast as technology is advancing, that could happen anywhere from a couple years out to a decade. It really depends on how fast the network infrastructure can be improved to support the bandwidth needed for that.

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