I noted a Facebook post and Tweet from my friend Paul Gillin earlier today with interest. To quote:
"Razorfish study says screw engagement; ppl want discounts from brands on SM.http://bit.ly/12eIAy. IMO, this question hard to study"
In turn, I posted on his Wall:
"I’m not the least bit surprised. Looks like they did a pretty thorough survey"
"Brand Engagement" is, mostly, a waste of time and money
I reviewed the findings of the Razorfish study and have to agree that it supports an assertion I’ve been making for some time – that consumers could really care less about your Social Media strategy and have little to no interest in ‘engagement’ or ‘dialogue’.
Unfortunately, these initiatives continue to be cited ad nauseum by countless Social Media self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ and advocates as ‘proof’ of Social Media ‘ROI’. And I continue to assert these initiatives are silly at best, and financially dangerous at worst.
I don’t want ‘dialogue’ but I love a good deal
What the study does say, however (and uses well-known consumer brands including Whole Foods and Starbucks to illustrate) is that consumers will respond to a good deal. This is precisely what the oft-cited Dell social media ‘case study’ also illustrates.
I also have a personal dog in the hunt – no, I am not just a skeptic who is trying to rain on the Social Media parade. I am actually an enthusiast of Social Media for interpersonal networking purposes.
And I’m on the board of Snow Beverages, a consumer brand that – like all consumer brands – absolutely needs to build and consumer brand awareness. There is nothing I’d love more than to help Snow find a marketing channel that can deliver on the promise of Social Media – a low-cost, high-engagement channel of consumer communication.
Unfortunately, like many marketers are finding, at the end of the day we need to invest in strategies that sell product. We’ve actually had great success with live, in-person promotions – and we’ve even promoted them on Social Networks – but ‘engagement’ and ‘dialogue’? Meh…
Using Twitter as the new corporate clearance rack or Facebook for handing out free samples doesn’t sound nearly as sexy as ‘brand engagement’ and ‘consumer dialogue’ – but it’s all about ringing the cash register these days.
Consultants or Cheerleaders?
Having known Paul for many years – back to when he was the editor of ComputerWorld and I was an analyst at Yankee Group – I also know that he’s honest, practical and a very straight shooter. Razorfish also deserves credit for running this survey and speaking so honestly about the results.
So social media marketing isn’t so much about boosting brand awareness as enticing users with concrete offers. "That to me is a big ‘Aha!, said Garrick Schmitt, Razorfish group vice president of experience planning and editor of the study, in an interview. "What we’re finding is that with Facebook and Twitter, marketers are assuming some deeper dialogue, but what’s really going on is — people want deals."
Both Paul and Razorfish are doing what a good consultant should do – fostering a discussion upon which their clients can make smart and informed decisions on which strategies work – and which do not.
Unfortunately, I continue to experience that those characteristics far too rare – and too many of today’s ‘Social Media Consultants’ aren’t consulting at all, but are instead Cheerleading for strategies that will certainly make money for their agencies & career, but could very well be counterproductive and harmful to their clients & employers.
Companies are wising up – and the Social Media industry is overdue for a rationalization. Those strategies that don’t sell soda, coffee, groceries, airline tickets or whatever else companies make money from are going to go by the wayside. If you’re an enthusiast and advocate, you should really think hard about which side of this rationalization you want to be on.
I know where I stand – and until someone shows me evidence otherwise, I remain in the camp that ‘engagement’ and ‘dialogue’ might be nice, but they don’t pay the bills. Companies will not make significant investments of resources in these initiatives until (if?) the numerous Gurus spouting these strategies prove otherwise.