Let’s Put This Myth To Rest: Social Media and Marketing

My latest rant, up on the Amex Open Forum Blog. From it: The debate is as old as the web itself – what is the role of marketing in a medium that is so clearly driven by interaction and communication? I have a lot of thoughts about this topic,…


My latest rant, up on the Amex Open Forum Blog. From it:

The debate is as old as the web itself – what is the role of marketing in a medium that is so clearly driven by interaction and communication? I have a lot of thoughts about this topic, but a recent Ad Age article roused me to address one of the most irritating myths out there: That somehow social media and marketing don’t mix.

Titled “P&G Digital Guru Not Sure Marketers Belong on Facebook,” the article quotes Ted McConnell, Manager of Digital Marketing Innovation at P&G in Cincinnati. The money quote: “What in heaven’s name made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their girlfriend?”

As I read on, I became certain that the article, which has gotten a lot of attention given P&G’s profile in the marketing world, took what was clearly McConnell’s nuanced view and gave it all the subtlety of a Michael Bay film.

“Social networks may never find the ad dollars they’re hunting for because they don’t really have a right to them, said Ted McConnell,” the article begins. It then goes on to lay out the reasoning behind such an assumptive lead: McConnell doesn’t like random banner ads, and Facebook’s targeting, which purportedly solves the issue of randomness, leaves him cold. Given those two things, Ad Age drew what I must say is an extremely lazy conclusion: Advertising on social networks doesn’t work – look, a senior guy from Proctor says so!

Well, I’m here to call bull on this myth. And I’m pretty sure McConnell would agree with me.

Let’s break it down. To begin with, the article makes this easy assumption: Social networks are “hunting for ad dollars.” That presumes a very traditional approach to media – that social networks have traditional packaged goods media assets (like, say, a television show or a magazine), and are out “big game hunting” – IE, trying to sell proximity to those assets to “big game” like P&G.

But as I’ve argued (over and over and over) social media “assets” don’t look like packaged goods assets, and neither should social media marketing. As McConnell rightly pointed out, you can’t barge into the middle of an intimate social situation, yell “buy my stuff!” and then leave. A brand that does that will certainly be remembered – as an clod.

5 thoughts on “Let’s Put This Myth To Rest: Social Media and Marketing”

  1. I think what he meant to say was that ads don’t work on social network sites.

    I think you agree with that notion. I personally do, too.

    Social networks can be used for marketing purposes. But you don’t use ads as the marketing vehicle. They just don’t work there.

    Bu that leaves a huge problem for social networking sites: If ads don’t work, what else can they or should the offer to companies that does work?

    Facebook in particular hasn’t cracked that, yet.

  2. Social media advertising has to be social. It is more like word of mouth marketing than traditional banner ad marketing. In a social media environment we won’t buy just because you say so. We’ll buy if we like you, if we like your story, if we like your reputation. We’ll buy if you’re transparent. Social Media marketing takes time. You have to spend time, engage the community, and become known.

    To me, someone who has found and bought products thanks to social media word of mouth, it’s about telling me the behind the scenes view of where the product or service is from, who built it, made it, and what’s it made of? Let me know how it’s benefited others. Have others tell me too. Retweet it, forward it, link to it!

    Bottomline – We buy from people and companies we like, trust, respect and know. What better way to get known than going social via Social Media.

    This has prompted me to write an article on this topic. I’ll share it with you John when I’m done. Great post!

    Dan Harris

  3. I find it amusing (indeed: even a little bit alarming) that in this day and age such prejudice (as referring to some content as “advertising”, and referring to other content as “non-advertising”) is still used, even though it is completely outdated (and seems rather to belong to the era of traditional “print” publications).

    All content is paid for in some way.

    What really matters is whether content is relevant or not.

    However, in this day and age of zapping, slicing, dicing, etc., there is very little attention span for anything which is off topic and/or irrelevant.

    If I am looking for an appliance, then I want you to show me appliances. If I am not looking for an appliance, then I don’t want you to show me appliances.

    That’s it.

    I wonder why some people choose to respond here (versus at the Amex blog) … fascinating!

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