How an unrepresentative headline can be dangerous
Last month the WSJÂ reportedÂ on recentÂ ForresterÂ research that initially seemed to debunk social media as a useful tool for marketers.Â Private EyeÂ magazineâ€™s Ad Nauseam column included a beautiful piece about media agencies running scared.
Itâ€™s a wonderful headline for a cynical journalist community, and in many ways I enjoyed it too. We are pumped full of social media statistics and endorsements as a marketing community, and good on Forrester for, if not exactly bursting the bubble, at least making us look more closely at what weâ€™re doing.
With the added benefit that if it shuts up just one of those self-styled â€˜social media gurusâ€™, industry events will be that bit more tolerable.
The Forrester report really rings true when you see stats likeÂ â€˜92%Â of marketers plan to spend the majority of their social marketing budget on Facebook this Christmasâ€™. Will this really deliver the return? I donâ€™t question doubts in these massive shifts in trends at all.
As a fairly regular ecommerce user working in the social media industry, I still canâ€™t say I know many people who are buying via Facebook. I am also quite sure that I donâ€™t really want to â€˜engageâ€™ with a chocolate bar or â€˜converseâ€™ with a laundry product when Iâ€™mÂ stalkingÂ looking at family and friends on Facebook.
However, for our small and emerging business to business customers, Twitter is exactly how they can go about a targeted and focused direct liaison with customer and influencers. Often, clearing a path through a wall of cynicism so they can see the benefits of using Twitter can be a challenge, so it is unfortunate that headlines such as the one above can feed a predisposition to social media aversion. This can defer their launch on these channels, which can prove counter-productive.
To these clients, we say: do it small, do it well and do it selectively.
There is no point adopting a Facebook strategy if you have a small employee base and arenâ€™t selling directly. However, there is every point in using Twitter for thought leadership, SEO, journalist engagement and sales. Yes, sales.
In some ways, the smaller the business, the more social media can achieve for you. Use LinkedIn well and it can direct relevant connections and leads for you â€“ as oneÂ entrepreneurÂ will tell you.
Ditto for Twitter. The primary benefit is that you can find people you want to engage with at a small, but defined level. In the last month, two universities have found me via Twitter and asked me to speak to their PR and Media students. This has occurred at a time when Iâ€™m shortly going to be competing with all the other agencies to sign up the cream of next yearâ€™s graduates. How much of a head start will this give me in the race to recruit? How much better will my firmâ€™s profile be with these graduates? How much money will this save me?
Perhaps Forresterâ€™s next piece of research could be on the potential savings that small business encounters as a result of social media activity. Iâ€™d give them a hand, but I havenâ€™t the foggiest idea how you could go about quantifying it.
I certainly wouldnâ€™t discourage my typical MD and CEO from investing in social media, but I would certainly advise them to spend prudently and in a targeted fashion. Itâ€™s only a waste of money if you are spending too much on it. Not usually one of my mantras during the festive season, but everything in moderation, eh?
And that brings us to the crux of the fallout from the Forrester report â€“ it shakes up the thinking and attitude of marketers. Sometimes, and all industries are guilty of this in their own area, we believe too easily in what has become the accepted market â€˜intelligenceâ€™. This report means we have to investigate all social media, question our ideas, evaluate returns, and be ever more answerable to our clients.