As you can probably tell, I took the title for this blog straight from a song called War by Edwin Starr (which you are welcome to listen to while you read this post). While I do not believe social media is good for ‘absolutely nothing’ as Starr suggests regarding war, the usage of ‘good’ in this instance is something I would like to dissect. For what exactly is ‘good’?
In the words of Peter Singer, ‘good’ would be classified as the greatest benefit to society in which we are able to contribute. But as a marketer or business owner, ‘good’ is entirely dependent on what strategy or objective is in place when it comes to delivering customer value, and the channel or platform’s ability to achieve that.
Over the weekend I have been reading various articles suggested by the RMIT university syllabus – relating to digital strategy, social media strategy and the ways in which business and consumers interact with online platforms. And honestly, it’s clear to see, through my own research and the university readings, that there is a thought trend among industry veterans that differs from those starting out in digital careers (newsflash: digital may be big, but it isn’t everything). Whether this is an inability to adapt to the new generation or simply wisdom, I am inclined to believe the dinosaurs. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.
When it comes to the average social media user, most would think that getting the highest number of likes and thereby exposure, is what social media is good for. Seeing the numbers tick over, the little ping on your phone indicating a notification can be intoxicating – it can make us feel as though we are really doing something important. Now, don’t get me wrong, exposure is great, but as we all know, 100,000 views does not necessarily translate into an equal number of sales, or even consumer attention a day later, making this myopic definition of ‘good’ fall rather flat.
It isn’t the numbers we should be paying attention to (unless we’re looking to become employed by YouTube), but rather, questioning, are they the right numbers? Is this the right strategy? And, could we be reaching the right numbers (our true segment) through a different avenue? For such a labour intensive undertaking, you don’t want to be marketing blind. Indeed, according to Erin Williamson from Yellow, ‘all businesses agree that the most frustrating aspect of social media is constantly thinking of new content and making those constant changes’.
Like any marketing channel, social media isn’t inherently ‘good’ or even better than any other (and in some ways, it may even be damaging or unethical, but we’ll get to that later). It should also be understood that there are a multitude of social media platforms which all perform differently and no matter what marketing tools you are using, your content still needs to be worthy of attention. According to Kaplan & Haenlein (2010), these platforms can be categorised as collaborative projects (such as Wikipedia), blogs (such as what you are reading now), content communities (such as YouTube), social networking sites (such as Facebook), virtual game worlds (such as Fortnite, League of Legends and other online games) and virtual social worlds (such as Second Life or Habbo Hotel). Whether a brand gains the attention of the consumer is entirely dependent on how intelligently they have researched how to reach their target and how inventive they are at implementing their strategy. The way you reach a consumer playing Fortnite would be a completely different set of tasks and goals compared with Facebook.
So, enough waffling, we all know we need to be strategically creative to succeed in marketing and in business. Let’s look at some stats. In Australia, the Yellow Social Media Report 2018 (split into two parts) has come up with some insights for both consumer and business behaviour alike. For consumers, the most popular platform is Facebook (79 percent), followed by YouTube (53 percent) and Instagram (39 percent) – Twitter (19 percent and falling) appears to be going down the gurgler, but I doubt anyone is surprised by that. Additionally, perhaps the most important learning for business is that 68 percent of consumers read online reviews prior to making a purchase. I know I personally am apprehensive about making a purchase online if there aren’t any reviews available to use as a benchmark for my decision and I doubt I’m the only one. There is a reason why websites that allow you to compare your options such as TripAdvisor, Zomato and Skyscanner have become so popular.
The images in this blog post weren’t chosen by accident either, according to the Sensis Social Media Report, a whopping 81 percent prefer to use their smart device (rather than laptop or desktop) to access content, and of the 96 percent who use social media primarily at home, 84 percent are viewing posts in the lounge room more than any other area. Outside of the home, social media is accessed mostly at work or on public transport. This means that businesses need to continually focus on improving their integrated marketing communication to work in a variety of different formats and at different times of the day, as dictated by their target market – if you can seamlessly translate your website into a functional mobile app or scalable iPad design with relevant content geared towards the time in which it is viewed, Australians will thank you for it.
There is no doubt the numbers are big, which is why social media marketing can be so enticing for business, particularly SMEs or start-ups with small monetary budgets (yet surplus human capital). However, when something appears too good to be true, it usually is.
With so many consumers using these platforms, and the world becoming increasingly global, brands need to have a solid contingency plan within their social media marketing strategy for when things go pear-shaped. Diplomacy, empathy, accountability and humility has never been more important for a brand to display – a press release tomorrow morning isn’t going to solve a blow up happening on Facebook right now because one consumer found a huntsman in their bag of lettuce. What’s more, the internet never forgets – everything is published forever, which, if managed incorrectly, can be lethal for even an established brand.
So, what do you think? Should we all as marketers be on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitch etc. with a focus primarily on social media? Or should we be thinking critically about how to manage our time and resources, across various marketing platforms and channels? Share your thoughts in the comments below.