Ronnie05's Blog

Is Social media/networking a marketing hyperbole?

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on April 19, 2009

I believe in the power of social media and strenghts of networking. I use my blogs, my Linkedin, Facebook and Orkut profiles to stay in touch, share my life with my network of friends (Facebook and Orkut) as well as keeping myself updated on subjects of interest and learning from forums and other experts (Linkedin, Blogger, Twitter, Word Press). Deep down there is an effort to market myself to the world at large and social media and social networking are important tools to do them. I met my childhood schoolmates on Orkut (after being incoomunicado for over 10 years).The last person i interviewed was a contact from Linkedin (instead of the pay per use job portals). I am trying to actively position myself for my next job through the Social Networking media. I find it difficult to ccomprehend when someone doesnot have a profile/doesnot use Linkedin/Facebook and others. All this is an ode to the virtues of social media/networking: Life, Work, Learning and Friends have become interesting.

Yet, i sense a bubble of social media/networking all around. It is the next biggest thing in marketing. Someway, i have begun to think that from a marketing perspective, if you dont have social media in your portfolio you are “uncool”. Social media experts are mushrooming all over and there are more “social media” bloggers and experts than any other subject (i dont confirm this statement!!) With the rise in Facebook and Twitter and such others, these mediums have become the cynosure of marketing and brand experts. Now everyone wants to have an internet presence/ Facebook profile/ Social Media leg to their marketing campaigns. The efficacy of this idea/thought is questionable.

The central thought when a user is logged into a social networking site is to talk/ bond/ network with his kind of people or friends. A product advertisement/banner/ pop up is seen more as an intrusion into the users time. I may not have the statistics, but i have a hunch that these ads are mostly “skipped” or “closed” or “ignored” by the user. There is a moment of truth, when the user may eye the contents for a brief second, but that happens rarely. Especially in India, where the internet speeds are low, an ad frame that takes time to load and hence impedes the user from doing what he is doing is generally dismissed straightaway.

For a marketing campaign, its cool to have a Facebook user profile and a “fan” following. Except that a large percentage (again unratified) of such profiles are not refreshed for weeks and months and are only used as a platform to “advertise”, not “engage”. A leading marketeer in India has a Facebook profile of its most important gaming service with 46 fans for about 8/9 month now. This platform has a host, but there is no dialogue and no discussion except version release circulars. It doesnot cost a penny to put a Facebook profile up. However, all this without consistency of engagement is a waste.

Similarly, a particular product based company (i know of) believes in 15% allotment of its budget to digital media. Most often digital media is less understood by its marketing folks who judiciously use the money in the banner ads and in page ads, the success rate of which is about 5%! Thats 95% waste, which could have been used better elsewhere. In the company being spoken about, this 95% is seen as an investment (the fruits of which would be borne later).

A recent discussion on Linkedin, featured someone asking for “best ways in Social media/networking to market a consumer product to xyz profile…”. Well, for a start social media/ networking doesnot “Market”, it only generates “Awareness” and can be used to enagage customers in a “Dialogue”. The dialogue also is necessarily not required to be product led… instead it ought to be the platform that the product hopes to provide a solution to. It is a communication media and not an advertising media. Users differentiate between communication and advertising very sharply. An enagaging conversation is one thing, an advertisement is another. One has a lot of credibility and the other has none.

It is important that marketers need to now understand the virtues of marketing beyond advertising and sales is to listen, engage, hear and discuss with the consumers. Social Media has a role in marketing and organization strategy. It has to be treated more fairly than just another media and advertisement vehicle.

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