social media is bullshit October 21, 2014Posted by nicholas gill in social media.
We’ve all wondered this at some stage surely? Probably when we’re sat in meetings and hear the word ‘engagement’ used so often you start imaging doing horrible things to the person using that word. Or to yourself if you’re the one saying it (I have). I borrowed this book from my copywriter, Ian. The first half seeks to debunk the entire mythology surrounding social media and in effect portrays it as something that has been created purely to create revenue for the people who talk social media up. The author takes down the ‘cyber hipsters’ and the glossy social campaigns that have been touted before us in the style of the second coming and venting much furious anger particularly at the likes of Chris Brogan who styled themselves as some form of social demi-god and challenged everyone who wasn’t getting returns in social that they just weren’t doing it right (i.e. come to me, pay me a truck load of dollar bills and I will help you). It’s fascinating. And makes you re-think the language we all use when talking about social media. The book then loses its way a little and goes off on some kind of road trip example of how social just doesn’t work. I think the author could have stopped half way and saved me another train journey reading it but hey. I’ll forgive him this though because who doesn’t like an Arnie quote as a chapter heading?
The author is clearly tapping into the unease people feel about social media and how people make it seem so complicated and that actually it’s so completely different from other media that we shouldn’t worry too much about how it contributes to sales. Well, what is the point then? People glibly say that they have moved on from the ‘vanity metric’ of Likes and follower counts but they haven’t really. When challenged to run a survey to draw out brand advocacy, purchase frequency and to re-run this activity every quarter to track impact of the activity, some brands (and agencies) shy away from this. Why? Will it expose the fact that social may not be working? Tracked well – and of course with some tight content that is core to the brand – social can contribute to direct sales or lead generation. Not tracked, you’re just contributing to the vagueness of social and the beigeness of the platforms.
It’s interesting to listen to this radio broadcast (or podcast) directly after reading this book. I struggled with a lot of the ‘social’ese’ being talked about but particularly that the ‘old way’ is to pay for attention on a media channel. With social media, you can create your own audience. Erm… Facebook and Twitter and the likes are essentially media platforms. Hungrily sucking your media dollars to get your shiny social content in front of your followers. You don’t play by their rules, you don’t win. They are advertising platforms. They are not free. You have to pay to be seen. And pay people to create that content that gets seen. And you have to determine if the investment you’re making is worth the 4,500 people who participated in a competition to choose the Asda Christmas tea towel campaign. Or whether £20,000 you paid to a You Tube vlogger to make a video baking cupcakes using Asda ingredients is good value. It probably was when he says it attracted 500,000 views (4p per view) but how many went on to buy? Did the loop get closed? You can bet when they spend £500,000 on Michael Owen for a TV commercial that the media impact gets analysed to death and that you see an impact in sales when the campaign is running.
Social media is also rife with play books, tips, tricks and formulas for success. One talked about in this radio show was that you have to create 10 posts of ‘engaging’ content, which Asda chap described as “it can sound like nonsense” in order to get across your 1 post that you want to ‘sell’ with or ‘get them to do what we want them to do.’ While on the one hand that explains the proliferation of posts telling us that it’s Friday, on the other, it contributes to the attack of the beige. Think about it. In what other media do you produce 10 pieces of nonsense and then one ad that tries to elicit a response?
I don’t think social media is bullshit but I do think we need to be very careful about how it is used and how we talk about it. We need to show it can be effective in helping a brand deliver it’s objectives. I like the way this Lego social person sums up how they measure social:
We measure ROI in four different ways: direct Sales, brand affinity building, marketing efficiency and our ability to mitigate risk/damage control.