The Truth About Social Media Advertising
…and other urban legends…
It was the best of times to be in marketing, it was the worst of times to be marketing…
Or at least, that's how I imagine Charles Dickens might have started A Tale of Two Cities if he was writing it today. The paradox is true. It's a tough time to sell marketing services – everyone's looking for an expert, while the terrible reality is that trends are shifting too quickly for true expertise to exist. On the other hand, there's never been a better time to be “mad men” because there are no limits, no boundaries, no set of rules to follow anymore.
At a time like this, a commodity like certainty is worth its weight in gold. A “marketing expert” who can guarantee a campaign's success will go far, until, that is, it becomes clear that – just as you suspected – there are no guarantees when it comes to promotion and advertising.
Unlike traditional forms of media, (like, ahem, print), digital and social media promise investors the wonders of being able to track the results of their investments. How much traffic has your social media campaign driven? By what precise percentage has your revenue increased?
We love being able to see these numbers, and yet, our ability to use them remains limited because of how fast the landscape is changing. What worked this week might not work next week. The company that generated crazy traffic with Twitter is not the same company that will explode on, say, ChatRoulette (and yes, businesses are starting to advertise there, too).
Nope, there are few guarantees to be had in this day and age. However, there are some things that remain true because they're older than social media, older than print advertising, older than the concept of marketing itself. And that's the little kernel of thought that contextualized human interaction as such: if I appeal to you on a personal level, you're more likely to interact with me, a.k.a. patronize my business.
Remember – think way back to, say, five years ago – when social media came into the mix? What made it special, different, better than other forms of advertising?
Way back in those halcyon days, a Facebook page or a blog or even a (ugh) MySpace page, made advertising personal again. It was supposed to make marketing friendly, accessible, individualized.
But what has it done? What happened to the greatest revolution in advertising since the town crier?
In short, it's ruined social media without actually benefiting business. The only people who have benefited from the whole process are web types who styled themselves “social media experts.” This is not the fault of business, but rather of the social media platform's need to monetize. Either way, however, the results are the same, and all the numbers add up to EPIC FAIL.
Somehow, five years on, we've actually come to a point where a business card or a brochure is the new old thing all over again. Now that we're used to getting all our promotional materials via Twitter DMs and targeted Facebook ads, print has become a rare, unique, personalized form of contact.
Ironically, hiring a social media expert to add a thousand people to your company's online profile has become the ultimate form of de-personalization and anti-socialization. Somewhere in the process of using digital media to get all warm and fuzzy and personal, we've completely checked out of the game.
Marketing will continue to evolve, probably at an unrelenting pace, in the years to come, and it may be impossible to predict a trend or guarantee the success of a campaign. But what is irrefutable is that fact that people are compelled by creative, meaningful, personal points of contact. And in the end these points of contact aren't something you can fake, homogenize, or hire an expert to do for you, but you can create them through passion, love for your business, and a bit of hard work.