Social media doesn’t build brands or make sales

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded

Marketing budgets are shifting and going more to online and social media. Many believe that everything from Facebook to Twitter are game changers. That is true. To a certain extent. They do add to the ways people connect and communicate. It opens unique opportunities for brands to engage with their customers directly. It allows customers to sound-off and have their voice be, not only heard, but to be reacted on. All of these are good things.

There is an approach that I hear from time to time that seems okay on the surface, but it becomes detrimental in the long run. The concept of dumping 100% of your marketing efforts into online and social media. At first sight, I can see why that’s appealing to some marketers. It’s free and when you do have to pay, it’s less expensive. I feel that if a brand becomes too reliant on social media they will end up having to pay double just to catch up later. Social media and online are great tools, but they are not well suited to brand building. As with other tools, if you are too reliant on any one of them too much, your brand becomes vulnerable because you are limiting your market channels. If the market place changes (and I can guarantee that because our world never stays static), you’re left in the dark. Here are a few thoughts:

• Social media can’t do the heavy lifting – Any tool misused is ineffective. Social media is not well suited for brand creation or market reach. It’s too narrow. It is great at 2-way communication and sharing of ideas. If you don’t have a strong brand, then there’s nothing to talk about online. It’s like two strangers at a party trying to find something to talk about. There is no real emotional connection or common ground. How many tweets, facebook entries and blogs do you really read? How many “friends” do you really religiously follow? My guess is probably less than 10%. Do you honestly think your brand is part of that 10%?

• Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean it’s better – Think back. How many things have you gotten for free that you believe is far superior than something of the same category that you paid for? For me, everything I’ve gotten for free is not as great as if I had purchased a better brand with my own money. If you’re a marketer trying to go “cheap” by seeing how much you can get by on low budgets and free social media, then my guess is that your products or services must be of the same caliper. Even online, consumers believe that if they must pay for something, it must be better content, better products/services, better information. Comprehensive marketing and advertising is still the best way to turn lookers into buyers.

• No one wants to be “sold” on Facebook – Social media is not a place to sell. We all get annoyed with that. It becomes the “junk mail” of the online world. Social media is to share ideas and opinions, not for someone to try and sell me something. It’s okay for brands to engage in conversation and to dispel or correct any wrong information or perceptions, but you really can’t proactively sell to me in that environment. That’s one way to be de-friended in a New York minute. Comprehensive marketing and advertising is great to make the pitch and sell. Social media is built for listening and communicating, not “making the sale.”

In reality, you should take the word “media” out of the term. It is not a media channel. It is a social channel. It’s the virtual water cooler, food court kind of place. It’s where conversations can take place, not someone trying to sell you something. The term media in the name adds to the myth of it being a true marketing channel. So to put all of your hopes of business success in a social channel is not the wisest strategy I’ve heard. I don’t think you’ll have many Harvard MBA’s backing you up on that one.

Brands should not try to be cool, but to be relevant to their customers. Increasing brand awareness and generating sales opportunities takes repetition and reach. Marketing and advertising is still the best at accomplishing this mission. Social media is not great at brand building or extending market reach. Social media is a very powerful tool, but it does not replace integrated marketing.

There’s a quote: “Marketing is the price we pay for not being amazing.” There are very rare products and services that qualify as “amazing” and can sell itself. The rest of the 98% need to market because the “amazing” factor isn’t easily identifiable.


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.

4 Responses to “Social media doesn’t build brands or make sales”

  1. Enjoyed your blog on social media marketing good content and an honest review

  2. Thank you for your reply and taking time to read our blog. I hope you will continue to find this useful and insightful. –Tony


  1. Yahoo News - May 31, 2010

    Yahoo News…

    I saw this really good post today….

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