The Biggest Problem with Social Media Marketing? It is Free. Sort of.
I was doing a keynote speech for a trade show a few months ago and was asked why so many companies struggle with social media marketing. You don’t hear that people don’t “get” TV or radio. Why is social media so hard?
There are probably many different reasons for this – it is new, it is experiential, many marketers are not participants and it is free. I’m going to focus on what I see as the two biggest problems. It is new and it is free.
Social Media Marketing Problem #1 – It is new.
Social Media and social media marketing are relatively new fields. Maybe 5 – 10 years old at best. Most other forms of marketing are much, much older. They have been refined over time to “best practices” that are now the standards of the industry. The TV commercial below is a Cheer laundry detergent commercial from the 60’s. It is a full minute long and features a man from space that kind of looks like Spock. Creepy.
Over the last 50 years we have refined television commercials to know what works. We know how to sell a product effectively in 15 or 30 second spots. They are highly effective. I bet that the ROI of early commercials was tough to measure, but after years of experimenting we can deliver pretty effective TV commercials.
As we gain more experience with social media and create new metrics we’ll have a better idea of the elements of success. It just takes time.
Problem #2 – Social Media is “free”.
Sticking with the TV comparison, imagine if it was free to air TV commercials. Anyone could air any commercial on TV just by sending it in. No costs except production. What do you think would happen? First there would be TONS of ads – probably almost every business would have a tv commercial. Second, the quality level would be lower. If there is no barrier to entry or cost to play, any business with a flipcam would create an ad. Many of these ads would lack strategy or production quality.
Instead, it costs a lot of money to run a TV commercial, so brands invest a LOT in strategy and production to make sure that their commercials will deliver ROI. They plan and test prior to running and campaign so that they don’t waste their money. The content of the commercial is strategy and really well thought out.
Now, think about social media. It is “free” to run a social media campaign. So, there are TONS of social media campaigns out there, many of which are poorly thought out and don’t include any real strategy. Hey, it costs nothing to run them, so why not just launch something?
This is why many businesses don’t get results from their social media efforts. They don’t invest in the strategy and production of their social media efforts. As a result they have a social media campaign that lacks strategy and production value. If the same effort was put into social media as it was into paid media we would probably see more success. Businesses would spend some time thinking about the strategy and the content prior to launching.
A “cost to play” increases the quality of the entrants. Think about dating sites. You get more serious daters on the sites that charge vs. the ones that are free. If you have to pay for something you want to make sure that you will get what you need out of it – so you invest more in the strategy and planning.