Social platforms deploy their honey trap.
Initially, social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter lured brands and companies onto their platforms with promises of free marketing and advertising. The ability to quickly grow a fanbase and follower base, without the need of hiring marketing shmucks like me. Why waste time on hiring a professional when you can do it all yourself for nothing?
At first, I was a supporter of this. word-press I believed that marketing and advertising was often something that only larger companies could afford, and that small business marketing was being left behind. Social media marketing allowed for even a mom and pop shop to compete online.
So many businesses spent countless hours and thousands of dollars in human resources to grow their followers online.
Having lured them into their honey trap, social media companies then held followers and fans hostages. You had to pay to have access to the userbase that you built up and cultivated.
Suddenly the numbers didn’t make any sense. You had to pay to promote or boost posts when previously it was free. The result was disastrous for many businesses. The ROI’s didn’t add up, but with so many of their customers on these platforms, they had little choice but to continue to try and get whatever value they could for them.
Moreover, the move to such promotions opened up the Pandora’s box to further abuses. The drive for revenue seemingly caused social platforms to continue to look the other way on fake profiles and social media bots because they drove ad sales. Personal data was harvested and manipulated in ways that users could not fathom and did not agree to.
Mostly, it did something to marketing that I’m not sure we can recover. For many digital marketing firms and marketing agencies, it forced us to down the Kool-aid with everyone else. People that should have known better doubled down on social media marketing for our clients when we knew -for most of them- it was unnecessary.
Marketing and advertising agencies became accomplices after the fact.
Like I said earlier, marketing and advertising agencies and consultants are supposed to obsess with accuracy. We want our clients to have the very best ROI available.
However, like professionals in any business vertical, we’re self-serving.
One of my favourite examples of how people who would know better will say anything for a buck is real estate agents.
Have you EVER heard a real estate agent tell you it’s a wrong time to buy a house? In all of my days, I have never read an article by a real estate agent saying that people should hold off on a purchase. House prices going up? A great time to buy; you’ll make your money back immediately! House prices going down? It’s a buyers market! Lock in your savings now!
Marketing and advertising professionals did something similar with social media marketing.
We saw the platforms’ rise in popularity and didn’t want to get caught in a lurch. The buzz was building behind them, and clients were often demanding us to help them. So -even though Facebook and Twitter were mostly unproven with little to no actual case studies to speak of- many firms told their clients to throw money into the black hole of social.
What was the result? The majority of social media campaigns are disasters. I only know of a fraction of companies that continue with any seriousness on social media compared to the rates companies did with traditional advertising or even SEO and non-social digital ads.
You see it in the positioning. When digital marketers talk about social media, they discuss it regarding “reach,” “exposure,” “presence,” “awareness.” That’s code word for “throw your money away.” Do an online search of the effectiveness of social media, and you will find the results filled with SEO and social media marketers praising the platforms and the strategies.
Real marketers talk about ROI. Impact on sales, and impact on lead generation. You can’t pay the rent on brand awareness. I’m saying this as someone who builds brands for a living.