Is social media doomed?

As I blog about new media, I am often struck by the irony of my social media “lifestyle”.  Many of my new “friends” have drunk the web 2.0 Kool-aid and spend most of their time on social media talking about social media.  From my conversations with them, you would think that these new media like Twitter and Facebook will change every aspect of our lives (heck, even Oprah is on Twitter now).  While I remain bullish about the potential of these channels, I have a bunch of concerns about long term adoption by pragmatists and laggards particularly in the B2B world.  Here is my logic:

Advertising based business models are weak: Regular readers of the ‘slice know about the poor response rates of Facebook ads.  Without a strong ROI from this advertising, companies will eventually steer clear of this medium or prices will be driven down to a level reflecting its effectiveness.

Where are the doctors, lawyers and other “regular” business people? I can see them wanting a presence in the social media world but until these media can improve service delivery, increase sales or cut costs, it will be a nice to have experiment for some guy in marketing.

Customer conversations are great: Engaging them online is valuable but it is challenging to measure the impact.  We’ll see in the long run if customer satisfaction or retention rates improve from these online interactions.

Someone’s gonna pay: In many cases, however, we just don’t know who that will be.  I love what people like TipJoy are doing in the micropayments space but we still don’t have strong revenue models for many of these sites.

Call me old fashioned: One of the things that helped Web 1.0 explode was when business people realized they could sell more stuff by having an ecommerce site.  I’m still waiting to hear more of these B2B stories from the social media world.

So what does this mean?

We need to keep innovating and testing.  There is a great deal of option value in being a part of the conversations.  They are happening out there whether you like it or not.  Also,  I know this isn’t a very web 2.0 idea but repurposing and syndicating your content through these channels can have a positive impact on your search engine marketing and help you reach prospective customers. Just be don’t be an idiot, be relevant, and add value to the conversation.

Author: Frank Days

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6 Comments

  1. Just be don’t be an idiot, be relevant, and add value to the conversation.

    Words to live by. Regardless of what .0 we are in. But yeah advertising revenue models are really really bad to rely on. I try and steer away from those. I just like the supplemental features that social media adds to a multi-tiered marketing program.

  2. SOMEONE MUST PAY

    You’re spot on with the last point, if there’s no money in it, this stuff isn’t going to last. People might like it, but unless they start paying for it, or unless the social sites find some funding or a way to sell something else (ads? “premium services”? pr0n?) that somebody actually wants to buy, “DOOMED” is putting it mildly.

  3. Stuart Foster: “I just like the supplemental features social media adds to the multi-tiered marketing program.”

    Stuart, You hit the nail on the head here. Social media is great…as long as it’s part of an integrated marketing strategy. Like other pieces of the marketing mix, it’s only as good as the ties that bind it to the big picture. And content (or whatever) pushed out over social media should make sense in that space, not just be repurposed advertising messages, etc.

    Frank: “Where are the doctors, lawyers, and other regular business people.”

    Amen, brother. Will be interesting to see when/if social media “trickles down” to all.

  4. I showed up way late for a panel discussion this morning, just in time to hear one of the panelists describing how his clients’ conversions on Facebook had made dramatic improvements lately. He attributed the gains to the nascent world of social search, in which the ads served are tied not only to your behavior and online profile, but those of your online network. Kind of like Word of Electronic Mouth: you may not know that your FB buddy recently bought and loved a coffee maker. But once the algorithm wraps its arms around the data that’s becoming available, that’s what FB will tell you when it serves up the ad.

    The medical and legal fields are not ones I would associate with aggressive marketing (outside the ambulance chasers). I am looking for social media marketing successes to come for small to medium-sized businesses who use their money to zero in on specific local markets. This may not happen for a while – as noted, social search is still taking baby steps. And I agree with Stuart that social media is just part of a healthy marketing diet. But I wouldn’t write off advertising as a sustainable revenue model for social media standouts.

  5. A 15% bump in sales is nice but not earthshattering. I’m waiting for the repeatable breakthrough social media program.

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