Overvaluing Social Media?

Are we overvaluing Social Media as a marketing tool? In today’s marketing world the buzz value of digital/social marketing is deafening.

This is just one of many studies you can uncover that shows the projected increase of digital media ad spending. As with all these studies, the growth curve is dramatic. You can’t swing a dead cat in a room of CMO‘s or Marketing gurus without getting the exclamation that ALL marketing is inexorably moving in the direction of being purely digital.

After all, the consumer now controls the conversation. We have precise metrics that show exactly what people are clicking on. It is now a given fact that people spend more time on Social Media than anywhere else on the web. Surely, the logic goes, this means the best and only place we should spend our marketing budgets is in digital.

Except when this logic flies in the face of facts.

Take, for example, the recent Nielsen figures showing on-line usage in the US. Astoundingly, over 212 MILLION Americans were on-line is March. That is one gigantic audience. Clearly, any company worth its salt needs to be doing its best to reach those people. Since most companies do not expand their marketing budgets this new spending stream needs to come from traditional media.

Why advertise on television or radio when EVERYONE is on-line. EVERYONE is using their smart phone and EVERYONE has a tablet. (Of course, the reality of this is false but since EVERYONE who works at an advertising agency or in a corporate marketing department has all these digital toys, it must be true….right?)

According to the most recent Nielsen figures, those 212 Million on-line Americans spend an average of an hour a day on-line. Further, they are on any given web page for about…a minute. Where they are likely looking for something besides an ad.

Compare this to the time we spend with “traditional” (that is to say, “old”) media. Americans spend – on average – 4 hours a day watching television (that’s real TV, not streaming stuff) and about 2 hours a day listening to over-the-air radio. clearly, they have not gotten the message that these media are no longer cool.

Assuming all these averages are accurate – and do not happen simultaneously – that means we consume about 8 hours of some level of electronic media a day. About 12.5% of our time is spent on-line.

I’m no math wiz but that tells me any marketing budget should align relatively close to those numbers, doncha think?

Now, this is where reality intrudes. Most small and medium businesses do not have the multi-million dollar marketing budgets that Coke or Ford has, so often television cannot be part of the equation. Heck, production costs alone preclude many from participating. Radio, while cost-effective – takes a true time commitment to be effective.

This is what makes digital/social marketing so attractive. It is relatively cheap, the production costs are ridiculously low and you can actually track how many times your ad is shown. (Quick caveat – “shown” does not mean “seen”. An on-line ad that has one million impressions could be one million people seeing it once or one person seeing it a million times.) And, this does not take into account the coolness factor of digital/social advertising.

Pardon me for being simplistic, but, in order for people to buy from you or donate to you – they need to know who in the hell you are! They need to find out what you offer, where they can find you and why what you have means a ball of wax to them.

Yes, you can pump up a Social Media presence, buy ads on Facebook, promote tweets, place display ads on various networks. You probably should be doing – or considering – all of these. However, if you think that just by doing this you’ll achieve critical mass in their attention spans – you’re nuts.

Generally speaking, well thought out digital/social campaigns support, amplify and enhance traditional media marketing. Creating and maintaining a regular presence works –  frequency sells, after all. Though there are many who will say the age of “intrusive” marketing is over – they are dead wrong. People are not placidly lying in wait to “interact” with your messages. You need a bull horn and a sledge-hammer to get their attention.

I’m not saying you should ignore digital/Social Media marketing. Just put it into perspective. Make it a part of your marketing strategy. Understand the medium – as you would TV or radio – and maximize its effectiveness.

Just don’t get caught by the undertow of the buzz.

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist


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About Steve Allan

I am a Social Media specialist uniquely focused on the management, messaging and marketing of social media platforms for non-profits and small businesses.
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1 Response to Overvaluing Social Media?

  1. Doug says:

    My thought is that your clients are lucky to have you on their team.

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