My post the other day (“Why Bother With Social Media?”) definitely struck a chord and generated some good conversation, as it was meant to do.
Based on some of those conversations and responses, I did want to add some more thoughts to the original ramblings.
First, I’m not saying never ever ever ever shall any brand spend time or money in building a social media community and fostering some sort of engagement through it.
Where there is some (relatively) clear connection between the core assets/function of a brand and the natural user consumption desires/behavior on a given platform, therein lies some potential opportunity for gain, and a decent argument for an investment creating and building a brand-driven social media presence.
But what I am saying, is that instances in which this strong natural intersection exists, are the exception, not the rule. Most brands are awkwardly forcing this connection at best, and all things being evaluated equally, it’d make more sense for them to reduce their focus in social down to near zero.
Because my central point in all of this, is that every marketing plan should start from zero, and channels should be chosen unsentimentally, prioritized based on their ability to drive the bottom line. Which more often than not, would put social media pretty far down that prioritized list. If on the list at all.
Some of the specific points that people brought up in response to my post were:
- What about customer service?
Yes, sure. Social media has most certainly shaken up how brands and businesses need to address unhappy customers. Though I’m not quite sure anyone's really cracked that nut yet. The most common tactic I’ve seen throughout the industry to date, seems to be the GFTO (get the fuck offline) approach, where social media managers play whack-a-mole, and try to herd complainers into established offline channels (phone/email/web) as quickly as possible. So, again, the resource case we’re making feels a bit disconnected from the reality of what’s actually being addressed - since most social media “customer service” amounts to a copy/paste apology and link to a form so reps can “take it offline”.
- What about purchase influence?
Jess made the point that social presences give the undecided users a sense of the brand. While I have a lot of love for Jess, I don’t necessarily believe that active exploration of a brand’s social channels is a deciding factor (or even an influencing factor) in the majority of user journeys. I’ll buy that people visit Yelp, or read Amazon reviews, or check out Consumer Reports, but I just don’t see Facebook pages as being an important part of that purchase path. Again, this feels like another tenuous hypothesis we inflate in order to justify what we’re doing.
- What about awareness?
Can a brand’s social media presence help drive awareness? Some, sure. Any interaction, or even noticing of any brand anything, can theoretically raise awareness of the brand in some small way I suppose. I’d tend to think though, that if you’re already a fan or follower of a brand, your awareness is likely quite high as it is. So maybe that content your posting, at best reinforces awareness. But I’m not sure that your owned social channels are creating any awareness where it didn’t previously exist. And frankly, your ability as a brand to even do that much, is basically going away as we speak.
Again, these are just my opinions today, and this is an evolving point-of-view that’s based on a lot of recent observations and conversations I’ve been having of late. Nothing I’m saying is a 100% truism or universally unassailable fact for every brand out there.
I do believe however, that brand marketers should be more assertive in asking the question (“is social media really worth it?”), and that they shuld be looking objectively at the channels they spend against, versus diving blindly into checking the boxes thrown in front of them.
And I’m also asking those who sell social media tools and strategies, to dispense with the fantasy, and to re-focus on bringing your clients the plans and recommendations that they actually need – not just the ones that you can best profit from.
I look forward to continuing the discussion, so keep the comments coming.
Was just having a conversation with Ilya about Facebook fans, and one of the thoughts that came up in the conversation was:
How would the way that brands perceive the value of a Facebook fan change, if we had no way to see how many fans other brands had?
The idea being that the current era of social media centers most heavily around the collection of fans and followers as a means to validate your brand’s standing in the [social media] world. And the ability to see what everyone else has, makes brands and marketers constantly insecure about their own audience sizes. And this visibility into everyone else’s data fuels competition that drives us all to irrationally chase bigger numbers.
Back in the day when all of our measurable stats were hidden from others (web traffic, click through rates, conversions, etc), we all focused solely on what mattered to our own businesses. We had no idea what the competition was getting, and that opacity freed us to focus on the metrics that dove our own bottom line.
The openness of the social media era has clouded our judgement and forced us to spend big not just to build our audiences, but to make sure we build our audiences bigger than the other guys.
Early last week, Facebook started to roll out its new Graph Search product, which amongst other things, is designed to “help you find people who share your interests”.
Now that I’ve had a week or so to tinker around with it, I’ve got some early thoughts.
First off, I don’t immediately see a giant opportunity for brands. Not yet. The idea (at least as it’s been pontificated about) is that Facebook has had reams of social connection data, but has lacked intent - which Google has in spades. So an improved natural search, means intent, and that is a win for Facebook. Let us all rejoice.
What remains to be seen though, is how users will interact with this search box, and if this behavior will open up future opportunities. I’m sure it will, but I just don’t see it quite yet. Besides, savvy marketers have had access to lots (not all, but lots) of this data through Facebook’s API for a while now, and it’s not clear to me that search has provided anything more to us advertising types, beyond a front-end UX and wrapper for the common folk to access.
My second thought, is that while Google may not become instantly marginalized by Graph Search, another industry does. The line between online dating sites like Match.com and Facebook has always been a thin one, and Graph Search may have just erased it altogether.
I’ve used sites like Match.com. I’ve even paid to use them. The value they’ve historically provided against Facebook, was that I could search on a ton of quirky criteria, and find single women, in a particular area, of a particular age, that liked a particular set of things that I liked too. So if I wanted to hone in on single 30-somethings in Somerville that I didn’t know already, that like the Celtics, and then see some photos and send them a message, Match was my best bet. And I was happy to toss them $19.95/month for the privilege.
With Graph Search however, I can now do the same exact style of searching, right on Facebook. Including the messaging of strangers part, which is free, unless I want to pony up a dollar to ensure delivery to the said stranger’s inbox.
Oh, and by the way…EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS ON FACEBOOK. So whereas Match (and other dating sites) will only have inventory consisting of those men or women comfortable enough to have overcome the stigma that is online dating, Facebook doesn’t have that problem. They have scale, in that more or less everyone with a face is on the platform.
So whether or not Facebook’s search product ever truly comes to compete with that of Google, who knows. But paid dating sites should start really re-thinking their model, because the game just changed in a big way.
Have you guys seen this? It’s a new trend, where people promise each other things, if photos/pages get 1mm likes. It may seem silly and insignificant (because I guess it really is), but to me, its the sort of thing that is signaling a real shift in what Facebook is becoming.
Back when Facebook first began to overtake MySpace, part of its appeal was in the rigidity and purity of the platform. It was the antidote to MySpace’s cluttered, blinking, cheap-o garbage. Facebook was the sophisticate’s social platform.
But now more than ever, Facebook has become a wasteland of apps, ads and fads.
2013 will finally be the year where Facebook exhaustion begins to take over in some truly noticeable ways. So to anyone out there thinking of investing in, or building a new generation of social platform, now is the time. The incumbent is weak and tired.
Seems appropriate that two totally indistinguishable and uninspired beers, independently ended up with two nearly indistinguishable and uninspired Facebook Timeline layouts.
It’s been a little more than a week now since Facebook released Timeline for brands at their FMC event. This new brand page format was a terribly kept secret leading up to the event, and was more or less a quick gloss-over on the way to a multi-hour romancing of what can be most neatly summed up as “MOAR ADS” once the event itself finally arrived.
Nevertheless, social media strategists and marketers went (and continue to go) berserk over this page restyling. Even saying things like this:
It’s as if dozens of little corporate museums just launched on Facebook. (from AdAge)
Now while that may technically be true, the problem is that these “little corporate museums” are likely to be about as popular as actual corporate museums. Which is to say, not very popular at all.
As a creative type at heart, I am not immune to being in love with the possibilities of what Timeline presents, and I have no doubt that some brands will find really neat ways to leverage this format. However, as the cynical and jaded northeast pragmatist that I am, I can’t help but feel like…well, like the general public just won’t care about this in the long run.
The two main issues that I immediately see here are:
- Social media creation and consumption is still firmly entrenched in the present. Twitter feeds whiz by, Facebook newsfeeds update at a dizzying speed, and while every app on my phone may be recording what I’ve done (past tense), I only care about pushing the buttons and telling the world while I’m doing it (present tense). Rarely do I go back in digital time to re-live my OWN past, let alone the past of a corporation. Certainly Timeline aims to change this (as do apps like Timehop, which I admittedly love), but as shared experiences in the present tense continue to proliferate at a breakneck pace, one has to doubt if users will also have the desire to dig into corporate histories with any regularity.
- The newsfeed still rules. When users consume content on Facebook, they are overwhelmingly doing so through their newsfeeds. And this is especially true when consuming content from “Liked” brands. Facebook Brand pages are rarely visited by fans more than once or twice on average, and being a user myself (and having watched/studied lots of other user behavior), I question whether or not those couple of visits will be spent scrolling through a deep timeline of corporate past and/or giving a shit about what that past contains.
“Coke sponsored the 1928 Olympic Games? That’s great and all…but are there any coupons here?”.
Coca-Cola is actually a nice proxy for the “who cares?” theory. They are the most popular brand page on Facebook with over 40mm fans, and a brand with a storied corporate past. Also one of the launch brands for Timeline, so they’ve got the benefit of a first-mover’s advantage here as well. Scroll down to their two oldest Timeline posts, and there is a sum total of 384 actions on them (comments + likes). That’s a 0.00096% “engagement rate” if you’re scoring at home. And again, this from the biggest brand, with one of the most famous histories of all.
In 2005, Mr. Choe was invited to paint murals on the walls of Facebook’s first offices in Palo Alto, Calif., by Sean Parker, then Facebook’s president. As pay, Mr. Parker offered Mr. Choe a choice between cash in the “thousands of dollars,” according to several people who know Mr. Choe, or stock then worth about the same.
Mr. Choe, who has said that at the time that he thought the idea of Facebook was “ridiculous and pointless,” nevertheless chose the stock.
Many “advisers” to the company at that time, which is how Mr. Choe would have been classified, would have received about 0.1 to 0.25 percent of the company, according to a former Facebook employee. That may sound like a paltry amount, but a stake that size is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, based on a market value of $100 billion. Mr. Choe’s payment is valued at roughly $200 million, according to a number of people who know Mr. Choe and Facebook executives.
Remember Diaspora? That was going to be the hottest.
Can I Instagram my yFrog photos and cross-post them to Twitpic and Tumblr?
Spotify kills Pandora kills iTunes, and then Google Music kills everyone.
As someone that works professionally in the world of social media strategy, it seems near impossible to stay on top of the newest and the hottest and the XYZ killers of the moment. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the average user.
While we nerderati love being early adopters and pronouncing 10 minute old products dead, while we gush over the new hotness, the average user largely ignores these apps and sites as they come and go.
The stuff that we argue about and use obsessively but temporarily, the regular Joe or Jane likely never even noticed.
I don’t know that it’s a perfect way to think about it, but I try and look at all new apps and social platforms through the same lens. I try and ask the same question…
Does this app give me something that I’m not already getting from somewhere else? And if this app DOES give me something that I already get from somewhere else, is it materially better at delivering that experience to me?
If the answer is no to either of these, it’s highly likely that the rank and file consumers out there, won’t likely give a flying Shazam about your product.
Of course there have to be SOME winners. SOME stuff has to stick. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare and others were all once just a line of code and a dream for some ambitious and wide-eyed entrepreneurs.
But that said, the aforementioned apps all did something relatively novel (YouTube), or did something in a materially better way than the competition (Facebook).
I had the opportunity to sit on a fun panel the other night with some smart people, including Anne, Eric, George, Janet, and Ted where we discussed lots of different social media related stuff. The final question of the night, was something to the effect of “what will be the big trend or thing to watch for in 2012?”.
The first part of my answer was that I think most media plans are going to start BEGINNING with mobile, rather than sprinkling mobile on as an additive. The second part of my answer was part soap-boxing and part wishful thinking, and I basically said that in 2012, I think the smart marketers out there are going to begin really asking what all of this social media stuff really means. Metrics and methods are really going to be questioned, as brands and marketers begin to scale WAY back on social, focusing only on the parts of the space where gains can truly be seen and measured with real confidence.
Along these lines, my most sincere hope for 2012, is that we once and for all abandon the “engagement” number as a measure of success.
And I say this, because quite simply and literally, “engagement” is at best directionally flawed, and at worst, harmfully misleading.
For Facebook specifically, engagement is generally defined mathematically as the sum of comments and likes on a given post, over the impressions that the post received (this stat is actually called “Feedback” on Facebook now). So if a post was seen by 100,000 people, and received 200 comments and 300 likes, your engagement formula would be (200+300)/100,000. And your engagement rate would be 0.5% (we’ve multiplied it by 100 to get the final %).
Simple enough, right? And I think we can all agree, that we’ve seen (and even used) this stat as evidence of a post, page, or campaign “working” or being successful. High engagement equals social media success! Done and done.
But here’s the problem, those comments that you’re tallying up as part of the numerator, most likely contain some nastiness. Some of those people in that group are probably complaining or hating on your brand. It’s even possible that most of those comments are negative. So if within those 200 comments, 175 of them are telling you that the brand sucks, do we still count those as “engaged” users?
This is a comment on the page of local cable provider RCN (name has been removed).
This is a comment on the page of TiVo (name has also been removed).
Should these both be counted as carrying equal weight? I personally don’t think so. But they are counted equally under the engagement-as-a-measure-of-success methodology.
So in 2012, let’s start thinking beyond the top-line numbers and the tweet-able headlines, and really start to understand what is actually going on in social. Because if we don’t, the bell is going to be tolling for this whole industry really soon…