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Social Media: Failure to Launch


By Peter Young

Social Media is a name on many peoples’ list, and a channel on many advertisers’ marketing plans – however – as many advertisers have recently found – it may not necessarily be the most effective channel in terms of direct response.

Certainly the research would suggest the potential traffic is there. Research suggests that around 60% of Americans use social media sites, with around three quarters of this figure visiting a site at least once a week. That by itself would suggest that there is a significant branding opportunity alone via social media sites, so what are the problems?

According to recent research by the IDC, sites such as Facebook and MySpace are consistently and significantly underperforming. Only around 57% of social net users clicked on an ad over the last year. Compare this against an industry average of around 79% of users clicking on at least one ad – and you see the massive gulf – and the issues facing potential advertisers. Further to this, those users who did click on ads were also found to be more careful with the money. Only 11% of users were found to subsequently found to have made a purchase, compared to a research average of around 23%.

Certainly the economic climate will have had some impact on those figures, however it still makes interesting reading–particularly in contrast to a recent Cone study which suggested that companies should use social media more. In particular users highlighted the following as areas where company involvement would be welcomed:
• 43% of respondents highlighted that organisations should use social media for problem solving
• 43% should use social media for product feedback
• 37% for brand activity
• …and only 25% for marketing

That sentiment is reinforced by the IDC report. Whilst sites like Facebook and MySpace have facilities which allow a breakdown of user data by location, age, personal interests and the like, the IDC report found that only 3% of users are OK with publishers using their data for marketing purposes, so in essence the use of this data is next to useless at present.

This may therefore explain the lukewarm take up of advertisers for increased spend in social media – however there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Research by Gfk Roper Public Relations/Epsilon suggests advertisers are looking to introduce more social media/word of mouth advertising – however over half of these suggested this was still low on their list of priorities at present . Traditional social media channels such as blogging, podcasts/vodcasts and Internet Forums/Webinars were found to be more prominent on advertisers priorities however there still seems some reluctance to engage with the social networks directly themselves.

Social Media is not a channel that is going to be suitable for all – and this may highlight many advertisers reluctance to incorporate social media advertising as a consistent part of the marketing mix. If you are thinking about social media do your research and make sure you understand your potential audience. Social media is not an easy nut to crack – but one thing’s for sure. If you do crack it however – the chances are you will win big… however you may have to wait for it to mature.

Peter Young is a UK SEO who contributes regularly to the Holistic Search site whilst working as SEO Manager at MediaVest in Manchester, England.

  • http://www.dstudiobali.com/webdesign/busby-seo-test-page/ Busby SEO

    Go go go social media, this things will go bigger then ever. Even Facebook have problem with their ads, but I think somehow they will solve the problem.

    Busby SEO’s last blog post..By: Freddy Hernawan

  • http://Blog.HubSpot.com Mike Volpe – HubSpot

    I think the real problem is that people need to rethink what “marketing” means. Marketing is not advertising. Marketing is not asking people to buy your product through outbound messaging. Buying banner ads in social networks is not a social network marketing strategy.

    Marketing is about inspiring people, and attracting them to your content and company because they want to go there. Inbound marketing strategies use content, social media and search engines to attract people to your business. Using social media to drive additional SEO links to your website is a viable inbound marketing strategy, using social media to attract more people to your valuable content is a viable inbound markeitng strategy.

    If you think marketing is just buying ads, sure, social media won’t work for you. But if you understand inbound marketing, I think social media becomes an essential component of almost every single company’s markeitng strategy.

  • http://www.seobrain.com/?p=10 SeoBrain

    Right now most people using social media.. i think social media will replace search engine function since people looking for the answear at social media site. While they interact with other people, they can ask and answear other people questions. Its amazing improvement for net future.

  • http://www.amiohayon.com Ami Ohayon

    I think Mike summed up my opinions very well … You need to interact with potential customers, and social media allows that. But a banner on MySpace just ain’t going to cut it.

  • http://thesocialpath.com David Griner

    25% sounds impressively high to me in terms of people being OK with social marketing. If you asked how many people think snail mail should be used for marketing, what would the percentage be?

    But your point is valid. You can’t expect DM-style response from social media marketing. Companies have to want more out of the feedback than, “Yes! I would love to buy your product!”

    David Griner’s last blog post..Hello world!

  • http://www.conversationalmediamarketing.com Paul Chaney

    I would agree that social media sites like Facebook and MySpace aren’t well-suited for advertising and for obvious reasons: The purpose for participating in a social network has little if anything to do with advertising. It’s about relationship-building and networking. (i.e. being social)

    However, to suggest (and I’m saying you did) that social media is not suitable for marketing is quite another matter.

    I sometimes feel we too conveniently lump all forms of social media into on big hamper and fail to take time to distinguish each strain by its relative strengths and weaknesses.

    Forget Facebook and MySpace for a moment. Personally, I’d like to see figures associated with advertising on blogs.

    Paul Chaney’s last blog post..BrightTALK’s Conversational Marketing Summit in full swing

  • http://www.sitecreations.com/blog Scott Clark

    I second @Mike – Social Network members are looking for bidirectional, er, social experiences, not to be yelled at by some advertiser who crashed the party. If brands want to engage, then ENGAGE – don’t just spray and pray.

    Scott Clark’s last blog post..Useless Flash Intro Splash Pages Get a Google Smackdown

  • http://www.jordankasteler.com/utah-seo-pro-blog/ Utah SEO Pro

    “Social Media is not a channel that is going to be suitable for all” – I dont know. I’m a firm believer that you can definitely find a way to use social media for any budget or industry that will be beneficial for you.

    Utah SEO Pro’s last blog post..ExactFactor: An SEO Tool Review

  • http://www.arthurficial.com arthurficial

    i believe the writer of this article has social media marketing confused with online advertising.

    social media marketing would refer to the intelligent use of social media as a means to getting found via the search engines, i.e engaging the platform to up your SEO points, as opposed to trying to shove your rand in someone’s face using the social media platform.

    Social media plays a humungous role in increasing the organic search engine results for especially personal brands. So what marketers do is use social media platforms the same way they would use a shopping mall, minus the payment for using the shopping mall of course, plus 2000 times the intended outcome… and a truckload of “sticky” to boot.

    I have personally used Facebook and other SM channels to build a strong personal brand (not with my real name of course). I have not used the Facebook profile for the last 5 months and yet my Facebook profile is Numba One in the organic search results on Google for that particular profile name.

    I have not spent a cent to make that happen.

    arthurficial’s last blog post..AAA, Vega or Nike?

  • http://www.saadkamal.com Saad Kamal

    “Social Media is not a channel that is going to be suitable for all ” — I don’t quite agree with you on this one.

    I’d agree if you say that “Not all Social Media” are suitable for every business. But i think social media in general can and should be adapted by all business.

    Saad Kamal’s last blog post..Microsoft to Pay $20 Billion for Yahoo Search

  • http://www.gadgets4nowt.co.uk PS3

    Of the 60% who use social media, how many strive to do no more than boast a massive amount of “friends” and use it as a popularity contest?

  • http://obscuremania.com Red

    The companies that I’ve seen on facebook use it like a few have already said, they’re there and they have a lot of friends and fans, but now what?

    There aren’t very many companies that know what to do next or at least do it correctly without forcing themselves with emails and worthless comments.

  • http://www.propdata.co.za Robert

    I think it a little unfair to tar and feather all social media options with a single brush.

    I agree with Saad Kamal that while not all options might work for a particular business or industry that social media in one form or another can be applied to all.

  • http://www.hsbc.co.uk/1/2/personal/current-accounts Monica – current accounts

    @ PS3 Of the 60% who use social media, how many strive to do no more than boast a massive amount of “friends” and use it as a popularity contest?

    Well that might be unreasonable when you thinks of facebook as an example, people compete on the popularity by the number of friends that have …

  • http://www.greatpriceshere.com Nicole Price

    Mike Volpe has got it right. Advertisers have to get their definition of “Marketing” right to effectively exploit this medium.

    Nicole Price’s last blog post..Stylish Cookware

  • http://ww.maxikadin.com/ diyet

    You need to interact with potential customers, and social media allows that. But a banner on MySpace just ain’t going to cut it.. i agree

  • http://ww.videozox.com/ videozox

    i disagree with monica .. you know ?

  • Pingback: Research says that everybody is using social media, but no one is clicking ads | Search for Sony

  • http://netpopresearch.com/ Rudy

    Indeed–I agree with those who have noted that advertising as we think of it now doesn’t have a place on social networking sites. It’s all about interaction, as has been stated repeatedly.

    The problem, as I see it, is that many companies still believe in the cult of the “Brand”. Opening your brand up to constructive (and, often, destructive) criticism through a medium that magnifies the voice of the consumer is still too scary for some.

  • http://www.anaokulumarketi.com Anaokulu

    I’d agree if you say that “Not all Social Media” are suitable for every business. But i think social media in general can and should be adapted by all business.

  • http://www.osyme.net OSYM

    I think Mike summed up my opinions very well … You need to interact with potential customers, and social media allows that. But a banner on MySpace just ain’t going to cut it.

    OSYM’s last blog post..KPSS Atamalarında Torpil Var mıdır ?

  • http://www.types-of-flowers.org/ Lily Bent

    Why nor use social media if it is of great usage and benefit for you. By using it one is free to get almost all information needed, find new acquaintances and even business partners.