A day doesn’t pass without headlines proclaiming that social media is changing everything (as are mobile, geo-location targeting, etc.) Two recent pieces raised some valid, challenging points around whether social media is truly critical for every brand/property to participate in – or whether the question of becoming ‘social’ should be evaluated more strategically against objectives and performance measures, without the urgent, ‘act now or lose out!’ sense of hype. The second piece also got us thinking about the different considerations and implications that social media represent for brands vs. media properties.
A post by Spencer Fry at Carbonmade challenges the perceived urgency and business (bottom line) impact of social media by asking some fair questions, or issuing some contrarian – but valid – considerations;
- With so much information flowing, do you know if your content/ information is truly being absorbed? Can you approximately measure it?
- Social features accompanying products: does friending and following add measurable ($) value to your product – or is it a distraction to customers and to your organization in serving them?
- Should a company hire someone purely for the role of ‘social media’, unless it’s based on a real business need? Is their role to respond to customers’ inquiries or concerns, or is it just to add 100 or 1,000 more friends or followers whose value they can’t measure in dollars?
- Are social networks nothing more than echo chambers where everyone is shouting to be heard?
- Not every product needs to be social (via a marketing technique), nor adopt social features (via product features on a website); they may make sense for certain intrinsically conversational brands with differentiated, valuable content. But not for the sake of checking a box and ‘being social’.
- The need for metrics: Like the banner ads of the early 2000s, social media marketing, social features and even game mechanics metrics need to evolve to eventually allow for more precise, targeted measures – and direct attribution to sales. Or brands will patience investing in a medium or tactic they can’t measure.
On a related note, a recent Forbes article and interview with Steve Rubel, SVP-director of insights for Edelman Digital, concludes that ‘for media, the future really is social’. Why such a specific opportunity for media, vs. for brand content, for instance? Media continues to be a source of information on a broad range of subjects – not just consumption. The accessibility and type of content that people expect from the media is not the same as they expect of brands from which they buy products. Among a number of topics, from data and privacy to monetization opportunities on the iPad, Rubel offers some specific observations and considerations for traditional media in the social realm;
- From Global players like CNN to local news outlets, the media has embraced Twitter and other social media platforms to extend the news and conversation with their audience, even looking for people shooting for photographs on their mobile devices.
- Moving forward, the future may be less about trying to persuade viewers to come to you, and more about going where they are. Perhaps the media will build a better presence on Facebook than their own websites – reaching people directly where they already are.
While we may not be ready to make any conclusions as to the definitive role of social media for brands nor for the media, both pieces raise valid considerations for further discussion – and a contrarian point of view for the urgency (and sometimes fear tactics) for all brands to become social, now.