Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Is Social Media Marketing a House Built on Hype?

I read a very interesting article in Online Media Daily that asked the question "Do social media 'experts' overestimate their abilities?"

Now I simply must make something clear. I very much enjoyed the article, but take issue with some of the observations made. So the following may come across as a bit of a rant. Nether-the-less, I want to stick up for those of us in marketing who prefer reality over fluff.

The article has particularly interesting comments to make about the ability of social media experts to measure the success (or failure) of their work. And notes the lack of confidence expressed by advocates for social media marketing. For example, a survey of social media experts found their own confidence in their ability to measure results is 4.5 on a scale of 1-10.

That embarrassingly low score is then described as 'ambitious'. In other words, they're even worse at measurement than they think they are.

The article then goes on to play down the usefulness of the metrics we online marketing types typically rely on (e.g. click rates, registrations and impressions). I'm a direct marketer by trade, and this derision of a metric that measures what actually happened gets me all hot under the collar.

The article suggests that social media marketing folk ought to turn to measures that deal with opinion, mood and preference over reality (my choice of word).

In my experience, the very market research being recommended is where all of marketing's fluff and nonsense is typically found. Perhaps I'm too one-eyed and narrow of vision to understand such high and lofty principles as 'engagement beyond activity'. And I'm instantly suspicious of a phrase like 'sentiment map'. I tend to regard it in much the same way I would something squishy I'd just found on the under-soul of my shoe.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with relying on the results of actual behaviour (e.g. filling out a form and subscribing) over claimed behaviour. Or worse, intended behaviour. And the thing I detest most of all, is opinions garnered from focus groups. Here in the UK we have a term for the sort of people who have nothing better to do than take part in focus groups. We call them chavs.

There we go. Rant over.