Scare tactics of new media

by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded

Are the new media “gurus” using old-time scare tactics to get people to follow them and become one of their disciples? I’m not against new media, hence my blog, linkedin, and twitter account, but I often read from social media mavens that “you’d better get on board or be left behind” or “your business depends on you blogging, tweeting, and linking to everyone.” and on and on. I also hear from some that if you aren’t ranked on Google, then you don’t exist and thus, will be history as a business. This kind of rhetoric seems not much different than some cults and other dogmatic organizations. There are many self-proclaimed prophets out there claiming to be the expert in all of the different forms of social media. In fact, many have built businesses around being the social media how-to place. As I see it, I can show you how-to do it too, but what they don’t tell you is how does it truly affect your brand in the long run or how do you monetize all of your followers? Also, because technology advances so quickly today, how do you know if twitter or Facebook is going to be the dominate platform in the next 4 or 5 years? If social media and Google rankings is all you need, then why aren’t there more hugely successful companies than there are now? Where are the multitude of online dynasties? Since almost every online business and small business swears by new media, shouldn’t there be a more significant numbers of millionaires who run billion dollar companies? Before social media can take the next step in becoming a serious business tool, I believe there needs to be some factors set up that are common among any discipline:

• Standards – Right now there is a lack of standards. Not in platform, but in standards. Everyone has their own interpretation of measurements, metrics, and what’s important (click throughs, time spent, number of friends, number of followers, etc.) Without a consistent and unified standard of measurement, it’s hard for a marketer to truly understand how the various social media platforms are performing and affecting the areas they want to see improvement. This leads me to the next point.

• Accountability – Without standards, there is no real accountability. It can be whatever you say it is. From a marketer’s viewpoint, that’s not very comforting. How do I know that your metric standards are better than someone else’s who does what you do, but measures something totally different? Most of this social media environment is great at getting people to link to me or view my blog or video, but, what do those numbers really mean? And just because I get 100,000 friends, what does that really do to my brand and ultimately, my bottom line? Not every metric is important to every business. Each have their own lagging and leading indicators to follow.

• Monetization – This seems to be the main hurdle for social media. In this “Freemium” world, most social sites would have to drastically reduce the numbers of followers if they started to charge for their services and try to make money. Even YouTube is still struggling to make a profit. Sure, most companies would have a lot of business if they were to give it away for free. There would be customers lined up around the block 24/7. The biggest challenge to these sites is how do you make a living from it over the long haul? As of now, no one seems to have an answer. There are businesses who sell you services to help you get into the social media, but why pay them when you don’t even know how this is going to add to your bottom line?

In the fear of not missing out, many companies have thrown out the core principle of ROI when it comes to spending on social media. They’ve lost the discipline to ask several key questions:
• Why get involved?
• What should I get involved in that will give me the best ROI?
• What kind of ROI should I be measuring in the first place?
• What metrics are important to my business and which ones are not?

It’s too early to crown any social media as king or even a standard for marketing purposes. All are great experiments, but none are mature enough yet to be considered a serious marketing tool. It doesn’t mean that it won’t be in the future. It may not even be the platforms we know of today that may become the standard by which we measure our metrics to tomorrow. I have little doubt that social media will become an important tool in the marketing arsenal, but just because a business isn’t involved in it a great deal doesn’t mean it’s doomed to go bankrupt.


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.


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