I’m getting old. At least that what it feels like. The thing that is convincing me of this more and more is the rise and fall (yes fall!) of social media marketing (SMM). Over the pond, where they know a thing or two about these things, and certainly set the agenda for us over here, I am amazed to be reading so much about how SMM is ‘struggling’ in these days of the supremely heightened requirement for ROI (Return on Investment).

The ‘first’ internet bubble around about 2001 (and consequent bust) was gradually replaced by the so-called web 2.0. A better, more robust internet / website economy. Content is generated by the users of the internet themselves. And like all good fads, everyone flocked to ensure they had a ‘digital’ strategy. Gradually we observed the ‘fuss’ die down and on-line / mobile / search and all sorts of other ‘new fangled’ ideas either die, or be subsumed into the accepted almost traditional media scene.

Then along came Social Media Marketing, and off it all kicked again, but this time, the life cycle between the ‘Whoa! this is the next big thing, I gotta get me one o’ them there Social Strategies‘ exclamations, right the way through to the ‘Thats all well and good, but how do I know if its adding value?‘ phase that all modern ‘faddy’ marketing concepts invariably find themselves crashing up against, if not outright floundering and sinking on, never to be seen again, is super fast! Within 2 years I’d estimate.

Not that SMM is there quite yet. But even Social Media heavy weights are weighing in with blogs like Steve Goldner’s latest. He’s the Senior Director at  Media Whizz in America where he leads the social media practice. His latest contribution to the debate is here, and is based on the idea that he would like to bring social media marketing to an end! It’s a bit more complicated than that of course, as ‘Social Steve’ goes on to explain, but he has also devoted a lot of time to topics I relate to myself, and topics I have been thinking about for 20 years, as I have found myself trying to explain to my customers why their marketing efforts seemingly aren’t working.

It all boils down to awareness versus direct response.

Essentially, the argument goes, your Social Media Marketing campaign is aiding your Awareness. If the ‘sales person’ (maybe external or internal) that sold it to you in the first instance is any good, they’ll also talk about things like engagement and trial and advocacy. And thats all well and good. I’d even go so far as to say crucially important, for your business and your brands.

But what about bums on seats? Ringing phones? Ringing cash registers for that matter? Heck, we’d even settle for a few more website leads that were a bit more likely to actually result in sales!

You see, that’s what I call Direct Response. You want to spend ‘£X’ on your marketing and relate it to ‘£Y’ right? fair enough. But it isn’t working out like that is it? And the things the (decent) media sales people have been telling you for years, things like you need to do it properly, you need to do it consistently, and you need to spend proper resource (time and money) on it are all still true.

Here’s the thing. Most people spend AT LEAST 70% of their time worrying about where to place / run / locate their advertising and marketing, and only around 30% of the time worrying about what the marketing should be saying.

It should be exactly the other way around. Here’s three ways to improve your SMM, and all your other marketing too for that matter.

1. Stand for something. Be famous for something, and either be different to everyone else, or be cheaper than everyone else

2. Work out either, what everyone wants (the Apple approach!) or who wants what you’ve got to sell (The almost everyone else approach)

3. Find a way to communicate with them. Broadcast (TV, Radio, Outdoor etc.) Narrowcast (Face book, Twitter, email etc.) or anything else in-between!

Even better talk to someone who knows what they are talking about. But please be careful? Twitter seems like its full of people claiming to be social media gurus, and everyone has an opinion on this stuff. Talk only to people who can demonstrate a track record. At least then if they tell you that you have to wait to see the results of your campaign, or that it’s doing your business good, even if it doesn’t feel like it, you can at least believe them.

Or talk to me, I’ll advise you for free, initially at least, and point you in the right direction.

At least study and learn and practice this stuff for yourself. There is all the information you need online (of course!) And loads of really high quality blogs you can subscribe to that will help as well. Theres a few of them listed in my blogroll below.

It’s not easy. It never has been, and it never will be. Thats why not all business ventures are a success. But there are well established routes you can follow to success. Just make sure you take them!

  1. Paul
    Paul says:

    All very true! My personal feeling is that the best use for social media woudl be to highlight products and offers – but to not over do it! You dont want to annoy your followers/customers by constant messages that fade into the background.
    But, for example, a couple of tweets a week with direct offers on “Half price sausages today only @ Dais Butchers” …. that kind of thing …. what are your thoughts on that?

    • damiandowling
      damiandowling says:

      Hi Paul. I may do a piece on exactly that actually, what should it be used for. Mike Bersin has some ideas he has asked me to post on his behalf too
      For me, I think you are right, but social is about a conversation with your clients. Sometimes that means making them offers (or highlighting offerings) and sometimes just providing information. But it should be authentic, helpful and content led, something to enjoy if possible. Social media is after all where we go to ‘hang out’ as it were
      thanks for the comments as always

  2. damiandowling
    damiandowling says:

    Here is another great comment from Mike Bersin, a radio legend! unfortunately one who can’t get the comments bit on here to work… so here it is!

    Hi Tony – wanted to respond to your recent blog but can’t find the button – so –

    Loved it – it’s become increasingly apparent to me that, as I have found during radio: “when advertising doesn’t work, in 99% of cases it’s not the medium, it’s the message” is particularly true of social media – the whole point of sm is to be fluffy warm and friendly; sales messages can’t work there, it’s not what they’re for.

    So – Confused.com = unhelpful name. Go Compare = memorable but not necessarily loveable. Compare the Markets (meerkats) memorable because loveable, and marvellous viral potential for branding.

    Ask any radio station execs for examples of great brands and you’ll get half a dozen big national spenders – and one local client if you’re lucky

    99% of our clients aren’t brands, (they’re places where you go to buy brands), so they are only brands in as much as their advertising will develop an image for them – either the one they intend or the one they get by default.

    SM can, if the image is right, help them with this, but not at all necessarily with direct response, sales, and money in the till today

    Is that close?

    PS a friend of mine, who runs a very good photography business, has been an enthusiastic proponent of Facebook for a couple of years. He’s just pulled off as it’s “full of people talking trivia about themselves”. Harsh, but dangerously close to the truth.


  3. Nick Smith
    Nick Smith says:

    Great stuff and I agree completely but social media is here to stay! The main issue I believe at the root of the problem (and I suffered this whilst selling radio) is peddlers and low level market traders.
    Advertising is simple get a clear message out to as many potential customers who are in a position to buy and guess what…it works.
    Spend real time on the content and campaign and a parish magazine will deliver ROI.
    The main issues we see with most social media campaigns are either boring content or terribly targeted messages.
    People are engaging in mobile and social media for ever increasing amounts of time so as Tony suggests get good advise and work hard on the reason people should buy from you, then communicate that core message as often as you can (repetition builds reputation).
    Top article mate, always a top quality read and always take me back a few years into the board room!

  4. Lynda Swindells
    Lynda Swindells says:

    Fantastic blog – I’m loving your articles so far! As a freelancer, I find marketing is the absolute hardest part of the business for me.
    I agree completely with what you say about so many ‘so called experts in SMM’, for me, these people seem to be the worst offenders in how NOT to do social media. I am no SMM expert, very far from it, but I AM a consumer and I know what I don’t like to see (lots of spammy buy me, buy me messages) and absolutely no interaction. There is nothing worse than responding to something on Twitter/Facebook and being ignored! I don’t think I have ever made a ‘sales pitch’ on my social media pages, for me it is about building relationships and trust. People know what I do, that’s why they have come to my Facebook page, so why would I want to constantly bombard them with obvious sales patter!!
    Look forward to more of your aticles.

    • damiandowling
      damiandowling says:

      Thanks Lynda, some very good points there. If people are spending their hard earned time (and its typical free time) you need to respect that and not ‘shout’ at them!
      Not sure you should think you struggle with marketing, seems to me you have an extremely solid grasp of whats at play
      thanks for taking the time to comment

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