The point of social media is not to sell anything.

by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded

I had lunch with a colleague recently. Our discussion turned to marketing and how the landscape has changed and is changing. During our talk, we both noticed that there seems to be two camps that are emerging.

Camp 1: These people believe that this is the beginning of the end for traditional media and “old school” marketing tactics. A few have made the statement that direct mail, print advertising, and TVspots will disappear in the next 5 years. The world belongs to bloggers, twitters, and SEO.

Camp 2: This group believes that traditional marketing tactics will still play an important role in the overall marketing strategy. They’ve heard it all before, when radio came about, the print medium will die. When TV became a mass product, radio’s days are numbered. When CDs came out, this was the ONLY way were going to listen to music in the future. etc. Camp 2 doesn’t hop onto a bandwagon quickly.

My colleague told me that a woman, who owns a business, said she gets web site hits, blog comments, tweets, etc. in upwards of 25,000 per day. She is squarely in Camp 1. She completely believes that social media, especially the FREE ones, are the only way to go. When my colleague asked her about any other marketing tactics, she completely believes the notion that advertising is a waste of money. When my friend asked, “So, how many of those 25,000 are you turning into paying customers?” Her actual reply was that it was ZERO, but that’s not the point. (Huh?) The goal is to start a community and communicate. Not sell. (Didn’t see that coming) If the point of being in business is not to generate revenue, then, what is the point of business? And if, in her mind, the point of social media is not to turn these connections into paying clients, what is the point of these kinds of tactics?

This got me thinking about how extreme the views are in today’s marketing world. Every time there’s a major shift in new technology or knowledge, the same revolutionary cry goes out, “the things of old will fade away as the new technology flavor of the day, is the future.” From my view, new technologies do change the game. It makes what was once impossible, possible. For example, in order to get your brand noticed, there was no other choice than to run TV spots, radio commercials, and print ads. Now with the internet, you can go directly to the consumer yourself without the heavy media buy. What I think people forget is no matter the technology, marketing physics and principles still are relevant. For example, just because we build new buildings out of space-age materials, new alloys, and improved techniques of building, doesn’t negate the core principles of applied physics. Even if the materials and techniques change, principles of physics still are very relevant. The same goes for marketing and branding. In fact, many of these social sites are struggling to break even. Making a dime is asking too much. As for me, my business is in the business of generating revenue. The better we serve our clients, the better our bottom line is. It’s so yesterday’s analog way think.

In my years of marketing, one thing I’ve learned, extreme positions are usually wrong. Absolutes are usually wrong. Both in business and in life. I come from old school marketing and I’m working hard to learn how the new tools and marketing environment can be leveraged on behalf of my clients. I don’t have it figured out, but I do know one principle still applies; no one tactic (read technology) is suited for 100% of your customers, 100% of the time. Smart integration of marketing strategies and tactics is STILL the best way to turn prospects, bloggers, shoppers, tweeters, into real customers who pay real money for your services/products.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.


  1. Online advertising isn’t dying, it’s just a market correction « Bebranded's Blog - October 14, 2009

    […] The bright spots: • Search revenue was up 2% • Time spent on social networking has tripled (*Footnote – though people spend time on these sites, no one yet, has been able to figure out how to monetize this category. It’s hard to be a business when you give away everything. (See my blog “The point of social media is not to sell anything”) […]

  2. Can you build an online brand with old media? « Bebranded's Blog - May 24, 2010

    […] going on. Too many businesses today have drank the online kool-aid and believe that is all you need. As I have pointed out about social media,  conversations are great, but it doesn’t pay the bills. If your brand is not a narrow […]

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