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.