10 Aug 2014

Critique of social media mania

Social media is treated as the holy grail of the moment. Organisations falling over themselves trying to implement it and hyper-ventilating over the search for social media practitioners to fill their ranks. It’s not as simple as it seems. Sure the advertising industry will rave over this as it presents another outlet to sell their branding and marketing expertise to prospects and current clients. The term ‘media’ in social media already provides a clue as to its links and complement to traditional advertising media.

It may have started as a simple platform for people to contact one another but it sure has become a honey pot for advertisers, or so it seems.

Let us venture beyond that.

How do you reconcile the effect of social media on the bottom-line?
Do you painstakingly match every e-mail address, every social media web page with the actual persons who registered their details in your list of attendees at an event?
Even if you did make it a point for people to register their details for data matching purposes, have you captured them comprehensively?
What about privacy and people’s right to it?
Surely, I can be a client and be anonymous about it. I can walk into any upscale restaurant, have my meal, pay the bill, tip the staff and then leave.
All this without fuss. Even if there is a review form with a guaranteed discount voucher, I don’t have to take the bait. I can choose not to fill it up. I can still return to the same place at another time.
Even if I did return there is no obligation for me to provide my e-mail contact, blog address and proof of social media presence. I can just choose to come and go as I please.

Even if you have my e-mail address, I can opt to unsubscribe and be removed from the mailing list because I do not find it amusing to receive too many unsolicited digital periodicals, reminders and offers.

Do you really think that a mere picture will persuade revenue to come your way? Picture perfect is the domain of professionals. Anything and anyone can be enhanced with such methods. It takes more than photo spreads to sell something of value. Out of the millions who view, how many actually were persuaded by such images? It won’t be easy making a survey and even so, the honesty of the sample population can be questioned.

Can you actually gauge if all the ‘likes’ received really add up to revenue or all those ‘likes’ are just the digital equivalent of lip service? I’ve known and received ‘likes’ that never add up to anything substantial. I’ve received ‘likes’ without anyone exploring the links given after investigation. I’ve seen sponsored advertisements on social media covering a probable demographic but not turning up a single click that resulted in a sale.

We’re almost back to the wild, wild Internet boom when ads were displayed at the bottom, top and side of web pages, with flashy words and graphics, with hope that someone will click them and be cajoled into a purchase. Social media claims to target adverts to specific demographics. All easier said than done, when you can consciously lie about your age, earnings, location, education background, just about anything on social media. Thus again, we are thrust back into the digital dark ages! You’re shooting again in the dark.

To sustain interest in social media, requires constant effort in posting, re-posting, making new twists to the subject matter. But do all those efforts add up to increased revenue or are there other factors also at play resulting in an upsurge or downward plunge, such as a coincidental event, politics, fashion, novelty, media interest?

Every approach contributes to revenue in business. However it would be foolish to place all of one’s eggs in the social media basket. It is new but it isn’t the turning point in longevity of an enterprise. It is too much of the moment tool and channel to make a lasting impact.

Social media also works better amongst already established brands as in corporations and brands as in names of personalities. It is more difficult for an unknown to burst into the scene compared to established names. The huge followings and fans commanded by major brand names were the result of achievement in other fields and not solely in social media.
Perhaps it is their exclusivity, quality, affordability, popularity, durability, artistry etc. 

But to really sell the brand just because it is on social media? For established brands, it is merely reinforcing its presence and reaching out to a population segment weaned on digital media. That too is open to question. Does it really sell by virtue of online presence or is it from influence, recommendation or incidental mention? 

For new brands, it is more difficult. Very few are aware of their existence. People online need to be persuaded, maybe through constant presence or even a sweetener, in terms of something free. Even so, the demographical concentration is flawed based on flawed or compromised information as mentioned earlier when people can deliberately mislead, wilfully.

The above is based on my personal observation and experience.

Social media simply is another channel to communicate. How truly effective it is remains to be substantiated. Social media as we know it now, like all known digital methods, can never take the place of real human interaction. So how can it really know and relate to sentient, intelligent beings who value their privacy?

I’m sure you’re aware of the phenomenon on social media where you’ve listed friends who aren’t real friends but acquaintances in the digital realm. Followers who aren’t genuine followers. Perhaps voyeurs to a certain extent?

So hold your horses! A well-written press release or statement backed by credible evidence, hard work, consistency and relationships has more substance than all the shallow ‘likes’, ‘tweets’, ‘re-tweets’ and ‘views’ in the digital universe.