Mainstream Thinks it ‘Gets’ Social Media

Two mainstream media stories 1 June tackle social media. The Wall Street Journal ($) offers perspectives on the ultimate measurement of social media effectiveness, direct sales through social channels; Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer looks at the risks of permitting social media use at work, quoting security consulting companies, lawyers and interactive marketing expert Dominic Litten (@DJLitten).

The Plain Dealer story is fairly predictable — “corporate challenges” presented by social media, together with tales of employees fired, foolish companies and an emphasis on the need for strong policies.  The central message is “CONTROL.” This disappoints me, especially because the story dwells so much on blocking social media. Katie Herbst (@katieherbst), who manages social marketing for an insurance company, offers a good counter to the blocking argument, pointing out that time-wasting won’t necessarily be limited by the lack of social media.

The Journal piece talks about apps that can turn social media platforms into sales generators — unmentioned is the time-honored technique of pointing people to a URL.  A couple of strange notes — a marketing professor is quoted saying that businesses must advertise to make people aware of their Facebook fan page, and that large numbers of fans are needed to “sway” buyers. This is a very traditionalist approach that ignores the relationship-building that’s at the heart of social media’s appeal.

Also, the story includes the requisite warning that social media could make for customer service challenges — another professor recommends an even higher level of service to support a Facebook page than other channels.  A Houston sports retailer added a Facebook app to its Facebook Fan page in 2008, but has sold only 50 products through it. Again, a narrow view of success, because unmentioned is the impact of Facebook relationships on other sales channels.

In both of these stories, the reporting is surface-only. The frames in which they operate are very much rooted in mainstream marketing, and little in either story (apart from @DJLitten’s good perspectives on technology and productivity) reflect the reputational and relational opportunities that social media is really all about.

Of course, many marketers are guilty of similar biases — they see the “captive” audience of Facebook fans and want to broadcast to them. Learning to see these tools in their proper context is a challenge all its own.

Present company definitely included.


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5 Responses to “Mainstream Thinks it ‘Gets’ Social Media”

  1. Thanks for the kind words.

    I think most blogs, and even mainstream media, stopped writing for “us” quite some time ago. That said, I think the lack of depth is due to the mile-wide focus of many MSM writers these days.

    In an odd note, I actually know Scott at Sun & Ski (the Houston retailer), and they do get social media, but much like MSM writers having to write about so many different topics, Scott has much more on his plate than pushing people towards the Facebook app (or even social media). If he had more resources (internal and external), I am quite certain that 50 would be exponentially higher.

    That said, I cannot disagree with your comments overall.

  2. Sean says:

    Hi Dominic – thanks for your comment.

    I remember well that reporters are stretched WAY thin (and so are their editors.) Just look at the poor, pitiable business section in most metro dailies. Lots of people covering sports though…hmmm…

    I didn’t want to ramble in the post, so I pulled out my Southwest Airlines case — we certainly can sell through social tools; the easiest method in my mind is not to create a new app to do it — push people back to your Web site and consolidate the sale there… I know it’s not as easy as clicking right there on FB, but gee…

    Thanks again for stopping by.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dominic Litten and Sean Williams, sruizpatton. sruizpatton said: RT @DJLitten: RT @CommAMMO: WSJ, CLE PD, have stories on Social Media. My criticism: […]

  4. Steve Dodd says:

    So very true, Sean. Regarding the WSJ article, so many just miss the entire point! All they are looking for is the quick hit and therefore totally miss the long term value.
    As far as the other article about “Risks of Social Media at Work”, IMO, if a company cannot effectively manage employees use of the Social Media domain, they have other much bigger problems to deal with.

  5. Sean says:

    Steve, thanks for the comment (and the great conversation on Monday) –

    Glad to see you agree — too many of our colleagues are too willing to give up the fight. We’ll keep preachin’!