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Marketers are wishy washy on social media

November 19th, 2007 · 20 Comments · Agency life, Branding, Current Affairs, Customers/Clients, Marketing, Strategy, Trends

Moneymouth According to a recent Coremetrics survey, titled "Face of the New Marketer" 78% of marketers indicate that social media initiatives give them a leg-up over the competition.

The survey found that in the last 12 months:

  • 31% of respondents have started a blog
  • 25% of respondents have put in place an RSS feed

So far, so good — right?  Well, here's the rub.  They talk a good game, but they're not really putting their money where their mouth is.  Just 7.7 percent of their total online marketing spend was allocated to it compared to 33 percent to online advertising and 28 percent on online promotion design and implementation.

In a completely separate study conducted by Gunderson Partners, they found that 45% of companies surveyed have allocated 10% or less of their budget to new media.  The report goes on to say "Of the hurdles mentioned, nearly 40% cited insufficient knowledge [lack of metrics] and 33% stated not having enough time to evaluate [metrics]."

So what do you think?  Are we just on the bleeding edge?  Is it a matter of time?  Or is there a flaw in the medium? 

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20 Comments so far ↓

  • Chris Wilson

    I think a lot of social media marketing is done at random without any thought of what the ultimate goal is.

    If a company is starting a blog, who are they trying to reach? What is their purpose? Goal??

    Lately I’ve seen a rush of clients that want to jump on the blog bandwagon, and like Gunderson Partners survey emphasizes, they have little or no experience with the blog world or social media at all. They don’t read blogs. They’ve just heard that they need to have one. I usually give them a list of blogs to read for a week and then schedule a meeting to discuss what they’ve learned about the blog world. Then we decide if it is something they should pursue and what they are trying to accomplish.

    I speculate that there are a lot of companies that have done a lot of testing the water, but when they can’t figure out how to bring ROI they bail, or their efforts diminish. And during this rush to social media, no one wants to admit that they don’t get it.

  • J. Erik Potter

    I agree we’re still early in the social media age. But, I get the feeling marketers are afraid of it. They lose power and control. That’s pretty scary for a lot of folks used to spewing out generic messages to the masses, measuring “key metrics”, and trying to make sales forecasts from any results. The skilled social marketer can learn to shape and direct conversations to some extent, but they’ll never be in full control of the end result. Measurement tools will go a long way in allaying some of this fear but not all of it.

  • Josh More

    There are many flaws in the medium:

    * RSS support is spotty at best, the fact the feedburner exists indicates that the technology isn’t mature yet.
    * Following conversations on a topic requires numerous accounts and many sites. CoComment helps, but does not fix the problem.
    * There is no way to distinguish between “professional” and “private” in the medium. Whether this is good or bad will be decided in the next 10 years.
    * It’s hard to understand, as analogies to past technologies are not straight-forward. ex: is blogging like a bulletin board, a party line, or like graffiti?
    * The functionality differs based on the technology used to access it (IE, Firefox, Opera, PDA, phone, RSS reader, etc).

    However, that said, email is also a flawed medium as the spam and virus problem would indicate and it has been accepted by many people as a key business driver. I would point out, though, that email of today is VERY different from email when it was first conceived.

    So, I expect that shared and bidirectional communication via the Internet will become mainstream. However, I am not convinced that once that occurs, we will call it Blogging or Web 2.0.

  • Douglas Karr

    It’s that old story of the ‘train leaving the station’. We’re on the train and it’s beginning to really take off. People are already getting left in the dirt. I work part-time on my blog and have statistics better than most companies with a marketing staff. They should be embarrassed!

  • Susan Plunkett

    Some great thoughts. J Erik Potter, I entirely agree that many many companies commence blogs without actually knowing why and I find many wind up in the soup because they end up with problematic moderation processes and then often encounter critical comments they weren’t prepared for – or even critical comments about their field or work they weren’t prepared for. Is the blog a marketing point or medium, a true attempt to open dialogue with the public, intended more for staff discussion or deliberately set up to garner insights? Or a mix?

    Josh offers some useful commentary I believe about technology not always being as whip smart as we think it is. I joined Facebook the other day because in the end I felt I needed to however I was in there 20min when I thought, “Gosh, I long for the time when we can have some similar sites that cut the soft porn.” This comment shouldn’t be taken to imply I am a conservative about such matters per se, however, I am at the point after a good solid decade or so online where I am heartily sick of virtually anything and everything public online not being able to adequately filter soft porn or people wielding guns and so on. These features have become expected and I wish they weren’t.

    All this said I believe online society is still a largely untapped research medium. Blogs offer a wealth of qual data. I have written research reports for a business on themes emerging from their members only blog. What I guess is interesting is how companies elect to use the material. I think some companies do this well but they are few are far between. In the main I find that companies largely prefer to ignore what bloggers or forum members are telling them. So, once again we loop back to, why have the blog in the first place?

    Some seem to believe that to be seen to be contemporary that a blog should be offered on a business site but then some take the view that the client/customer should be grateful and happy enough with that (and basically blow what the respondents are saying within the forum).

    And so many blogs are understaffed. The same applies to web-sites that encourage people to email enquiries. Few businesses have the staff to cope with email trade so if that is the situation why set up the site to push clients towards the option?

    In terms of ‘expert’ or the worth of comments on blogs. My view is that you assess each post for its merit and worth based upon your own reaction to it. I look for a bit of controversy or challenge because that’s often the friction point for learning (or learning about a different point of view or angle). Most people still post more negative comments in an anon nic across the blogs I look at.

  • Kate

    Beyond the time people fear about keeping up with metrics, there is the time one needs to dedicate to building and maintaining these profiles across the various sites. For most businesses, I think this is where the eyes gloss over and well prepared SEO becomes the much more targeted and beneficial route.

    The only thing worse than not attempting something is to have something out there that looks like it was done half-heartedly.

  • Lewis Green

    Drew,

    I agree with much of what the other commenters say. However, having developed and managed these budgets, we may be missing the primary reason for the differences in spending: social media costs relatively little compared to other marketing expenses, and staff additions would likely come out of a different budget.

    I think we might be over-reacting to the significance of these numbers.

  • Susan Plunkett

    This draws me into another topic – the issue of quant and qual metrics. I often gain the sense that marketers feel that must quantify everything – and quantity the qualitative. Sometimes in coming to a field I observe this and note two features. Assessments that really need to occur and serve a purpose, and assessments people only do to try and compete with other companies. I observe challenge to elements of this status quo but more mews than growls. It’s like some people hate all the quantitative work but feel they must.

    I’d love to comment on this issue further Drew but perhaps this is a new topic. However, out of interest, who draws qualitative themes from their blogs?

  • Piotr Jakubowski

    Drew,

    Although it may seem that new media may be the way to go, it’s come to my attention that many firms are still unsure as to whether they are willing to take that 10% risk every year. Working with a conservative client over summer, every single dollar of the budget went to traditional promotions, rather than looking towards new media and online possibilities. ROI this and ROI that.

    On top of that, I would agree with Kate in noticing that if there are firms out there that do embrace new media, some of them do it just to jump on the bandwagon. Just like an interviewer can see past the false passions of a job applicant, people can see past the smoke and mirrors of a worthless effort.

  • Susan Plunkett

    Piotr,

    Would you tend to agree that by the time people “do” see past the smoke and mirrors that that person or organisation has made a fortune and reaped abundant outcomes? Where is the fulsome and open critique of such magic shows as soon as they close the first show or two? Where are the public critiques and debates? Is it like a ‘gentleman’s’ culture where people largely say nothing to challenge and just scrabble madly (or perhaps compose elegantly) to bring out a competitive schemata?

  • Drew McLellan

    Chris,

    We’re experiencing the same thing — lots of people rushing to blogging without really understanding why or how.

    It’s no different from 15-20 years ago when people did the same thing with the website. They want to jump on the train — but have no idea where it’s going.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Erik,

    Yes, I think the fear factor is part of the problem. We are so new into this era of two way communications. Businesses are just not used to handing over the reins and letting someone else take charge of the conversation.

    But, that will change. As more companies report successes and step up and demonstrate how it can be done well, others will follow suit.

    I hope.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Josh,

    Some excellent points. We are in the infancy of all of this. Sometimes, I think because we (royal we) were early adopters — we forget that most of the world has no idea what we’re up to!

    Things will shake out — as they should. The very cool thing is that we get to be along for the ride. We are the pioneers, heading west. Not sure what we’ll find but ready for the adventure.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Susan,

    I highly recommend you give Facebook more than 20 minutes. There are rich relationship building tools within the site.

    Much of it depends on the quality of your relationships. I have used Facebook to connect with friends, query professionals on a topic I was speaking on (and using some of their comments in that speech), created groups where we shared common professional and societal interests….and thrown a sheep at a co-worker.

    Really, can you ask for more than that in a networking tool?

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Doug,

    If you could give companies one piece of advice on how to get better numbers than your blog…what would it be?

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Kate,

    That truth comes out of my mouth all the time. “Do not jump into blogging if you are not sure you’re going to stick with it.”

    We typically have clients “practice blog” for about 30 days to see if it is something they are really committed to doing.

    Better to be embarrassed in private, than out there in front of everyone!

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Lewis,

    Hmm, interesting. I would guess the truth is some place in the middle. Nervous corporate CMOs and the reality that one of the advantages of many social media tools is that they’re very cost effective.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Piotr,

    I think many “main street” marketers have no clue about social media, SEO or in many cases — even their traditional websites.

    What they do know and feel safe with is direct mail, newspaper ads etc.

    And if those are the right tactics for them — great. But, our role as marketing consultants/guides is to introduce them to their options and get them to step out of their comfort zone, if that’s where they need to be.

    Drew

  • Susan Plunkett

    Drew,

    That’s an important comment “if that’s where they need to be”. I’m not convinced, truly, that most businesses really need to be involved in an array of social media. I almost feel this sense of panic on some sites discussing this; as if people think they business will be ruined if they don’t get on board twitter and technorati et al. I agree that a couple of platforms that people find truly useful are great but technology for the sake of it kicks too quickly (for me) into allowing the technology to lead and not the individual need to lead.

    Oh yes, I’ll give it more than 20min. I’m simply commenting on immediate reaction to interface and images that I started to see. I weary, truly, of soft porn on most sites.

  • BridgetAnjellla

    Gutes Neues Jahr 2008.!

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