Posted May 13, 2010 3:33 pm by with 7 comments

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Patricio Robles of eConsultancy takes a look at the success of some recent social media campaigns—and the results aren’t exactly as inspiring as they might seem at first glance. For example, he looks at a recent JetBlue campaign on Facebook, where they saw a “massive” response (in ClickZ’s words).

But the biggest challenge facing that campaign wasn’t getting people to fork out the bucks for discount plane tickets—it was getting them to believe the $10 fares were for real.

Um, if all it’s going to cost is one click and a minute or two to figure out if you can really get a plane ticket for $10, is that exactly a high barrier to clicking? And then, once the $10 last-minute fares were real (in honor of JetBlue’s 10th anniversary), sheesh, why not buy a few?

Does that really constitute success? Says Patricio:

I apologize in advance for the sarcasm here, but it increasingly seems that a growing number of marketers have decided that the fastest way to achieve ‘social media success‘ is to:

1. Give away or significantly discount product.
2. Promote the free or significantly discounted product on sites like Facebook or Twitter.
3. Publicize the warm consumer response while acting surprised that consumers were interested in said product.

If this social media marketing ‘strategy‘ seems absurd to you, that’s because it is. Unfortunately, it seems to be a growing trend amongst marketers.

Patricio also points to another airline’s campaign, where Virgin Airlines sold 500 tickets at a 50% discount in a Twitter Promoted Tweet campaign. Which, he says, is “Something, of course, that it almost certainly could have done using just about any advertising platform.”

And of course, the biggest problem with this is the giveaway model isn’t sustainable. JetBlue can’t survive on $10 fares all the time. While some of the customers who got $10 fares will probably look at JetBlue’s ticket prices for their next trip, if JetBlue doesn’t have the lowest fare, they’ll move on. And if their experience with the $10 fare isn’t good, JetBlue just cost itself a lot of money to lose a customer.

Social media does have a place in marketing—but “success” probably shouldn’t be measured by loss-leader sales.

What do you think?

  • Marketers are testing all kinds of crazy stuff while the gain experience with social media. At the end of the day, hard metrics matter: leads created, leads closed, and revenue. The rest is interesting, but not as meaningful.

  • Glen

    I agree with Lateef that marketers are crazy in trying out anything to get what they wanted, and that is, more profit. However, Patricio does have a point–or points, rather, on the quoted part above. His brilliant observation on how marketers, or specifically, those who target social medias to present their products defines how this trend is popularized among marketers, and some just do it without realizing that their offer might not be the best long term plan for their business. Social media could be a good advertising avenue, but done in a wrong way (however popular that strategy is) won’t be good for business.

  • I have seen major Internet marketers leveraging Facebook ads especially for a couple big clickbank product launcehs

  • The social media world is not ‘that” far removed from the real one as to expect “money doesn’t talk” The jetblue offer could have been TV,radio or carrier pigeon and would still “fly”
    .-= steve´s last blog ..Social media security =-.

  • Hi Jordan,
    There is a danger that companies will go after the ‘quick wins’ with loss-leaders but that may sully the longer-term potential of the channel. In the world of big biz getting away from a quarterly, results-driven buy customers culture to one that about cultivating and retaining clients is a challenge. I hope the loss leader champions realise sooner than later that trying to buy your way to loyalty is not sustainable.

    .-= Adrian Swinscoe´s last blog ..To Brand or Not to Brand… Isn’t the Answer Obvious? =-.

  • Customers unwilling to pay a fair and justified price for a product or service are often the least satisfied overall. If you have to drag them to the cash register and hang them by the ankles to make them pay, they are generally not the type who will rave about your brand to their friends … or come back when your prices include profit again.
    .-= Mark Aaron Murnahan´s last blog ..7 SEO Guarantees: Yes, Guaranteed SEO Can Be Legitimate! =-.

  • I think there is a fundamental difference between two key groups, where as social media purists (completely borrowed phrase on my part) believe that the social web is simply a manifestation of what the end user thinks only, and a place where brands should only listen and attend to customer complaints, concerns and questions. On the other hand we have seen first hand that end users very much want to participate in social marketing based campaigns built around them, their ideas and their ability to participate. As to whether Jet Blue give a ways are permanently sustainable at super low discounts, of course not, but customer service businesses and retailers have always done promotions and discounts, now they can just do it in real time with instant feedback and engagement, vs. simply enter to win. You can’t sustain your social media presence on promotions alone (or at least not everyone can) but you can’t sustain it on thanking people for “re-tweets” and telling them they are special via “@ replies” alone either.