Facebook and Twitter Marketing Economics – Cynic’s Corner

Wrong Way Go BackThere is a profitability model for companies promoting themselves on Facebook and Twitter. There a lot of people making good coin from the incessant flogging of companies and organizations in social media. It just isn’t the companies themselves who are profiting.

Here is how it works in four easy steps:

  1. An executive is at the dentist’s office and sees the plea to friend and follow them. A dim light bulb goes off – “we should do this too.” Lemming marketing almost never works, particularly when you are following behind your Dentist.
  2. Someone in Marketing with an advertising background is assigned the task of building a following in “social media.” This is so important that they are given a bonus. The performance metrics are the evil stepchildren of the “brand impressions” school of marketing metrics. Quantity over quality.
  3. A campaign of whinging pleas to friend and follow ensues. We see this in every piece of literature the company products (annual reports – really?), at trade shows (“it only takes a minute!”), and even on flashing freeway signs (“great idea, let me do that while I’m driving…”). Logrolling and sock-puppetry are rampant – many of the “followers” are marketing people at other companies playing the same game.
  4. The metrics are hit, the bonus is paid. PROFIT!

This whole scenario is so wrong on so many levels it makes my teeth hurt. Here are some thoughts to help reframe this approach that map back to each stage of the process above.

  1. Any executive who is in a position to affect social media policy must be an active participant themselves. This doesn’t mean a LinkedIn account with 8 connections. They should be on at least 3 different services. A deeper understanding of how social media differ from traditional media has to be earned through experience – it is the only way. Put another way – they should intuitively grasp how empty the Dentist’s little social media campaign is.
  2. If you are going to build metrics organize them around engagement not exposures. The advertising paradigm of quantity over quality is precisely the wrong mindset to bring to this gunfight. Social media is all about a small number of high quality conversations not a bloated mass of easily ignored screaming.
  3. Social media should be all about attraction rather than promotion. DO things that contribute to the on-line community and you will be rewarded with a growing network. “Followers” is failure – remember this is about engaging in a two-way dialog. You have to make a real investment to make a real contribution.
  4. Everyone involved has to show a little more patience than they are used to in a transactional marketing model. If you are used to big bang marketing events you need to see how 2 new followers a day over the course of a year add up to a hell of a lot more than 100 leads from a trade show. It isn’t as dramatic, but the impact is far greater.

Go forth and prosper.