For the past year or so I have been commenting about on-line marketing mainly through channels like social media and all the various forms of content management. My main view has been that while all this activity may seem like it’s worthwhile, for a lot of businesses, who have had a couple of years to experiment with it, this effort has turned out to be pretty much useless. For some it has led to a re-examination of all the hype generated by the main social media platforms, where they find that all this activity is being recommended by people whose vested interest is in making their own businesses grow by getting their clients involved in these types of online programs.
I have talked to a lot of different people about this and the general consensus boils down to a few important points.
- On line marketing in the form of content management and social media programs, only work for a relatively small percentage of businesses. And the majority of those businesses are marketers who teach and manage content management and social media program development techniques. The remainder are primarily composed of businesses in the retail sector, who use social media platforms to create buzz for their business, and offer the kinds of products and services that people like to recommend. (ie restaurants, technology repair, home repair etc or people with a genuinely unique service)
- The web site remains the most important marketing tool in your online marketing arsenal, especially if you are in the service business in any way, shape or form. Your web site, especially if it’s well put together and designed, gives people the ability to check you out in much greater depth than they can by reading a LinkedIn profile, or following your blog.
- People have been brainwashed into believing that if they post something really interesting on a social or business media site, that a great many of the people they are directly connected with will forward their really interesting stuff to all the people they know. This is simply a myth, governed by something called the 1% rule, which is pretty self explanatory.
- A lot of the so called “social media success stories” you hear about, generally are the result of considerable support spending in conventional media. Marketers will try and convince you that if, say Coca Cola can do it, then you can too. They forget to add
that Coca Cola is one of the most recognized brand in the world and spend billions to keep that positioning. Anything they do online, while creative and intriguing, is actually activity they could easily do without.
Now don’t get me wrong…it’s good to have an online presence in addition to your web site. But how good, how much time you should be spending on it, and how much dependence you place on it, depends quite simply on the return you are getting. If it’s not enough, you need to treat is either as a loss leader or get the hell out before it costs you too much time and expense.
Back in the day before the Internet, communications was a lot simpler. There was media advertising, trade advertising, outdoor and transit advertising, public relations, direct mail & promotion.
These media had been around for a long time and their reach and frequency formulas were all tried and true. You knew what you were getting and you had at least a rough expectation of result, with the actual creative and the strength of the offering being the variables.
In today’s world of online media, it’s nowhere near that simple, because virtually everything is a moving target. In order to be seen you almost need to be ubiquitous and this no longer entails just creating one campaign and letting the media do the heavy lifting. It means generating “meaningful and engaging” content in large volumes and stimulating response from an audience with index fingers that never leave the scroll bar. And that’s just the relationship building part.
Having come from the ad agency world, I know exactly how difficult it is to come up with a single ad, commercial or campaign concept that resonates with the target audience and stimulates interest enough to trigger purchase. In today’s world, I would suggest that achieving these same results through content management and social media programs is, at the very least 10 times more difficult.
A number of companies that I know have come full circle with digital media, and where they find themselves is exhausted from the effort to make their content management and social media programs go, and frustrated at how unbalanced the effort v result scale has become for them.
Suddenly, all the stuff they used to do…ie stuff they cut back on in order to fund their exploration into the world of content management and social media nowq appears to have a whole new appeal for them.
Horses for Courses.
Having said all it, it’s important to understand that internet based media is a fact of life. Whether it’s a fact of your life or not is a matter than only you can decide. And it’s a tough decision.
As businesses of all kinds enter into this particular area of marketing, there has been and will probably continue to be more failure than success. And frankly, the only way to really find out for sure is to try it for a period of time. Or wait. Because, sooner or later, viable trends will start to develop, and you will be able to get a clearer picture of the viability of these media for your business.
Right now, anybody who is using these media as part of their branding and marketing programs is, quite frankly, an Internet Marketing guinea pig. Some will win. Some will not.
It’s just the nature of the beast.
I create and implement strategically focused
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Jim Murray, Creative Director
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