How much should you invest in social media marketing ?

Perhaps the biggest barrier to an effective social media marketing initiative is both executives trying to sell social media internally and a failure to understand just how important social media marketing is to conversion.   I could give you a lot of data about social media, it’s short shelf life, the fact that only 16% of brands facebook posts are read and the fact that engagement is down since facebook evolved to timeline but it’s much more than that. Marketers need to have a deep understanding of what they are selling (hint: it’s not product features) and understand what makes someone want to purchase their product.  In addition they need to know that just because someone purchases their product does not mean they want to have a relationship with the brand.

Silverman Research and Unilever recently surveyed 644 people from more than 30 countries to find out why more companies don’t use social media. Participants highlighted 16 different barriers companies face when incorporating social media, but they considered these four the most significant:

  • Difficulty in creating a business case.
  • Lack of knowledge and understanding of social media.
  • Failure of leadership to accept new ways of working.
  • Fear of the unknown.

Perhaps the first one is the most significant.  Some executives go out on a limb to support a business case (ROI) and promise big things via vanity metrics like fans but that alone is not enough in an era when 80% of CEOs admit they do not really trust and are not very impressed by the work done by marketers.

Is a facebook page really going to get her to stop and put your product in her shopping basket ?

The myths about social media and consumers (via Harvard Business Review BLOG)

Myth #1: Most consumers want to have relationships with your brand.

Actually, they don’t. Only 23% of the consumers in our study said they have a relationship with a brand. In the typical consumer’s view of the world, relationships are reserved for friends, family and colleagues. That’s why, when you ask the 77% of consumers who don’t have relationships with brands to explain why, you get comments like “It’s just a brand, not a member of my family.” (What consumers really want when they interact with brands online is to get discounts).

How should you market differently?

First, understand which of your consumers are in the 23% and which are in the 77%. Who wants a relationship and who doesn’t? Then, apply different expectations to those two groups and market differently to them. Stop bombarding consumers who don’t want a relationship with your attempts to build one through endless emails or complex loyalty programs. Those efforts will be low ROI. Chances are there are higher returns to be had elsewhere in your marketing mix.

Myth #2: Interactions build relationships.

No, they don’t. Shared values build relationships. A shared value is a belief that both the brand and consumer have about a brand’s higher purpose or broad philosophy. For example, Pedigree Dog Food’s shared value is a belief that every dog deserves a loving home. Southwest Airlines’ shared value revolves around the democratization of air travel.

Of the consumers in our study who said they have a brand relationship, 64% cited shared values as the primary reason. That’s far and away the largest driver. Meanwhile, only 13% cited frequent interactions with the brand as a reason for having a relationship.

How should you market differently?

Many brands have a demonstrable higher purpose baked into their missions, whether it’s Patagonia’s commitment to the environment or Harley Davidson’s goal “to fulfill dreams through the experience of motorcycling.” These feel authentic to consumers, and so provide a credible basis for shared values and relationship-building. To build relationships, start by clearly communicating your brand’s philosophy or higher purpose.

Myth #3: The more interaction the better.

Wrong. There’s no correlation between interactions with a customer and the likelihood that he or she will be “sticky” (go through with an intended purchase, purchase again, and recommend). Yet, most marketers behave as if there is a continuous linear relationship between the number of interactions and share of wallet. That’s why, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported, you see well-established retailers like Neiman-Marcus, Land’s End and Toys R Us sending customers over 300 emails annually.

In reality, that linear relationship flattens much more quickly than most marketers think; soon, helpful interactions become an overwhelming torrent. Without realizing it, many marketers are only adding to the information bombardment consumers feel as they shop a category, reducing stickiness rather than enhancing it. (For more on consumers’ cognitive overload, see the sidebar “Too Much Information” in our recent HBR article.

How should you market differently?

Instead of relentlessly demanding more consumer attention, treat the attention you do win as precious. Then ask yourself a simple question of any new marketing efforts: is this campaign/email/microsite/print ad/etc. going to reduce the cognitive overload consumers feel as they shop my category? If the answer is “no” or “not sure,” go back to the drawing board. When it comes to interacting with your customers, more isn’t better.

Still something is missing

I would argue that what most marketers are missing is identifying the key driver of conversion.  What was the moment of truth that led the a consumer becoming a customers ?  Was it price ?  Was it a POP display ?  Was it an ad that conveyed emotion ?  Or was it a combination of a lot of different marketing programs.  Ah..there is that integrated marketing word again.  Get used to it and for God’s sake get into your customers head to find out why they became customers and how you can keep them as customers.  No, you don’t need to spend a lot of time to thank someone for buying your brand of peanut butter but you do need to understand why they are going to come back or not come back and chances are social media alone is not the answer.


8 thoughts on “How much should you invest in social media marketing ?

  1. Gavin

    Great Article. I spend a lot of time educating clients about setting realistic expectations. measurement, integration etc. Often I find that clients don’t really understand the medium, They just need to “DO” social.


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