Another study on social media’s failure to live up to expectations
The headline on yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article on social media says social media has “fail[ed] to live up to early marketing hype.” True enough, but the situation is even graver than that innocuous header implies. Readers will encounter a litany of social media ills so extensive that the article reads more like the autopsy report of a particularly horrendous car crash than a dry little analysis on the front page of the “Marketplace” section.
Here are the sad bullet points:
– “Social media are not the powerful and persuasive marketing force many companies hoped they would be,” says Gallup, whose report on this topic the Journal got an advance copy of.
– More than three-fifths (62%) of consumers Gallup polled say social media has “no influence at all” on what they buy. Ouch.
– Gallup: “Consumers are highly adept at tuning out brand-related Facebook and Twitter content.” (What, you thought you were the only one who manages to ignore them? So does everyone else!)
– Then there’s Nielsen, which reports that “global consumers trusted ads on television, print, billboards and movie trailers more than social-media ads.” Considering the skepticism with which consumers see all forms of advertising, this means the level of trust in social media ads is less than zero.
– Brand advertising on Facebook is increasingly unsuccessful. “Brands reached [only] 6.5% of their fans with Facebook posts in March , down from 16%” a year earlier.
– Small companies, including family-owned wineries, are frustrated with the results of Facebook ads. “[T]he return is really disappointing,” one restaurateur said. “Unless you spend to boost a post, you only reach 300 to 400 people.”
– The dislike social media users have of anything that smells like advertising or marketing has reached new heights and seems irreversible. More than 90% of social users say they use social media simply “to connect with friends and family.”
– As for piling up fans, “friends,” “followers” and the like, which has been the Holy Grail for companies, “Researchers [now] say many fans are fake, or automated.” One researcher found it cost him 42 cents to buy 700 retweets.
Statistics and anecdotes like these won’t be enough to seal social media’s coffin permanently, nor should we be overly quick to criticize social media for what it cannot do. As an ardent social media user myself, I’d hate to be without it: it has changed my life, and for the better.
But there can no longer be any doubt that social media (as I wrote six, five, four, three and two years ago, and again last year) is not, and cannot be, the alpha and omega of brand marketing strategies. That’s not what social was created for; it’s not what social users want; and the only reason why anyone continues to believe in the marketing value of social media is because a cadre of social media consultants insists (still!) that it works to sell stuff.
If I was a winery, would I be doing social media? You betcha. But I’d be careful to avoid any hint of puffy-fluffy PR, which turns people off. To sell wine, you need to do it the old-fashioned way: shoe leather, personal relationships and—yes!—scores, which still count.