Do these quotes sound familiar?
“…there is scant evidence that anyone is getting rich yet from this grand marketing experiment…”
“…its use is limited…”
How about this?
“…employers are concerned about employees spending too much time…”
Surely these refer to social media, circa 2009, right? Nope. The first quotes are from 15 years ago – the New York Times edition of November 4,1994 – in an article called “Companies Rush to Set Up Shop in Cyberspace.” The second, also from the Times, in 1995: “Finding On-Line Distractions, Employers Strive to Keep Workers in Line.”
So, why is it that years later, we’re involved in the same dialogue about social media? A recent MediaPost article – pointed out here on thinks last week – claims social media fails as a marketing medium. As Amy Poehler and Seth Myers used to say on Saturday Night Live, “Really?!? Really?” It looks like those who don’t know their history really are doomed to repeat it.
First off, let’s define some terms. Social media is the set of tools used by people to communicate and connect with one another. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or message boards, the medium is just a tool. We already know people discounted the Internet as a marketing tool in its early days. The same with email. I don’t suppose the telephone was a particularly effective marketing tool in its early days. And until Mr. Sears, Mr. Marshall Fields, and Mr. Montgomery Ward came along, I doubt mail had much use either. Now, while I can’t say with confidence which service – Twitter, Facebook, what-have-you – will dominate in the future, dismissing the whole set of tools out of hand is ludicrous. By which I don’t mean the singer. Yes, I’m an acknowledged fan of Twitter. But more due to what it represents, rather than the tool itself.
Second, social assumes people. And people equal word of mouth, at least if you give them something to talk about. Encourage your customers to tell their friends. Make it easy to share your information – whether via Facebook, re-tweet or offline. Don’t assume your customers aren’t already talking about you on social media. More important, shouldn’t you be more worried if they’re not? So give them something to talk about.
Do these facts guarantee social media is the right channel for your company? Of course not. But only you can determine that for yourself. Plenty of brands are discovering how to get benefit from social. Learn from their mistakes and from their successes. Set goals for your activities. Measure your actions. Then decide for yourself whether social media fits into your marketing plans. Blindly following anyone, whether it’s me or MediaPost – but especially if it’s MediaPost – is a bad idea.
Think I’m off my nut? Or is social media valuable to your business? Tell us about it in the comments.
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