The Danger of Dismissing Social Media’s Value
I know I’m preaching to the choir, but there is business value in social media marketing.
How’s that for a news flash, guys?
Not like I’ve never said it before. So why again now? Well, the idea that social is a waste of time caused quite a stir on Hacker News today as Spencer Fry’s Down With Social made its way to the top. Fry makes a strong argument, however, we’ll have to agree to disagree.
Why Fry thinks social media has no business value:
- Skills needed for community managers are present throughout the organization. Devoting a full-time person to the job is a waste of resources.
- Social media is not a fit for every business. Some sites are better served without social features.
- Social media marketing can’t be measured effectively. Spending without knowing the return on investment is throwing money away.
So here’s where I beg to differ.
In Business, Like Life, It Pays To Be Social
Long before the Internet, it was common knowledge that businesses that gave good customer service and responded to their particular audience’s needs would find the most success. Businesses did this by getting to know their customers, from mom-and-pops that would greet visitors by name to big brands doing market research. Being social (don’t think social media here, I’m talking about just plain “social”) is about getting to know people. So businesses that are social will learn about their customers, get product feedback and recommendations, and build long-term relationships.
Being Social Is About Listening and Iterating
First of all, I think that Fry has forgotten that blogging is part of social media. People don’t blog just to hear themselves talk. They blog to share ideas with others and to listen to others share ideas with them. Other than Steve Jobs’ insistence that he doesn’t have to listen to users, all the stories I hear about product development demonstrate benefit in testing with users and soliciting feedback. Social media, including blogging, is an open communication stream that flows both ways. And if not publishing one’s own blog, it’s a mistake to forget about the social content generated by others. Last time I went on a “don’t overlook social” tirade, I included a video of statistics that illustrate the power of social. Here’s one of the standout stats: 34% of bloggers post opinions about products and brands, and 25% of search results for the world’s top 20 largest brands are user-generated content.
Social May Not Be Measurable YET, but Measurable Does Not Equal Valuable
I wonder if Fry would take to task PR departments for a lack of measurability. Before the Web, getting press in traditional media was considered a good thing, so much so that any press was good press. But could the PR department easily quantify its contributions? Today, 56% of journos and editors say they use social media resources when reporting stories. Also, analytics technology is still evolving. It wasn’t always the case that phone calls generated from PPC ads could be tracked, but that didn’t mean there was no ROI on the ad. It may not be tomorrow, but social media will be more trackable in the future. In the meantime, businesses would do well to recognize social media’s role in the conversion funnel. For instance, a blog post can generate value for SEO via relevant content and links, and it can create reputation value by taking a leadership role and establishing consumer trust. Of course you have to weigh your options to see if social media is a fit for a business, but at every SMM conference session I’ve been to, one of the first things the speaker says is, “Get to know your audience and establish your goals before choosing a tactic.”
So what do you think? Have I been drinking too much social media Kool-Aid or is Fry’s argument officially toast?