Posted December 21, 2010 8:36 am by with 6 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

Remember not so very long ago (probably just yesterday) when someone looking to really get involved in social media for business was told “It’s free so just go for it!” ? This usually came from a social media “expert / guru / ninja / maven / superstar / hero / stud / wizard /expert” (oops, already used that last one so I must be out of pathetic self-naming options).

This ‘expert’ actually didn’t realize that by promoting the medium as easy and free that no one would pay them to help them (hey, if there are any experts etc. etc. in finance who want to teach social media people what it means to be in business there is “gold in them thar hills” for sure). This phenomenon has created our current glut of social media ‘talent’ looking for a check which means they will say anything to get someone to sign up with them (look to the search marketing industry to see how well that has worked out).

But I digress. What the business world is finding out that despite the ‘low cost’ there is actually a very high cost to effectively be in the ‘social media for business’ game. Those who do this game for real know this already but for the poor Director of Marketing at XYZ Company the reality of what it takes is becoming very harsh very fast.

A survey conducted by R2Integrated (Internet marketing / social media service provider alert!) and reported by eMarketer shows that people trying to get into the social media game are getting a crash course in ‘there is no such thing as a social media free lunch’.

Looking at those results I wonder if there is not enough time and / or resources to do the other things listed like overcome skepticism of ROI, decide what platform, get executive buy-in, getting started and then learning the tools. Forget how much time it takes after you accomplish these things!

Once the social media marketing wannbe has cleared the hurdles stated above a curious thing happens. They realize that they still don’t’ have enough time and resources to do the social media marketing game effectively.

So what does this mean for the industry as a whole and the poor marketing executive for the upcoming year? I think it means that the social media industry needs to do a much better job of conveying the realities of the practice rather than promoting the fantasy of it. The social media “industry” is looking like a mirror image of its search marketing cousin that is rife with snakeoil salesmen and scam artists that it has lost credibility in the place it needs it most: the client side.

Stop with the hyperbole and the delusions that are more pitch than practical. Stop with the moving on to the next best thing that no one outside of the industry has heard about or understands and concentrate on the basics. Heck, these basics are still being hammered out so how in the world can the industry keep moving forward without collapsing the foundation of sand it has created?

As for the bewildered marketer? I would recommend a very serious assessment / audit process to start your 2011. Take the time to see exactly where your current strategies are working (so keep them) and not working (reassign the time and resources from dead spend to better areas). You may find that by trimming the excess marketing fat you can free up existing time and resources that were being wasted on the wrong activities. There, problem solved :-).

Of course, nothing is that easy. However, if we all spend 2011 plowing forward without truly owning what has or has not been done to stabilize the art of social media we can call 2011 “The Year the Social Media Industry Shot Itself in the Foot by Promising Too Much Too Soon.”

Your take?

  • Cynthia

    Social Media, like writing, is something everyone swears they can do successfully if only they had the time. When ever I tell someone I’m a writer, 80% of the time they respond by telling me about this fantastic idea they have for a novel that would be a huge hit — and say, maybe I’d like to ghostwrite it for them???

    The truth about social media is it’s not the lack of time, it’s the proper use of time. I’d bet you that for every person on that poll who said they don’t have time for social media, spends at least an hour a day reading Facebook or Twitter messages from friends and family. People think it’s a get rich quick scheme and when it doesn’t pay off on the first tweet they blame it on lack of time.

    • @Cynthia – I agree. I also see people who break out in a cold sweat when asked to generate content because writing is something they simply cannot do (or they think they cannot do it). I have had people tell me how much time they spend on a blog post and I think “No wonder they don’t have time” because a post shouldn’t take that much time at all!

      Those who can write often forget just how much of a gift it is viewed as by others who fear writing about as much as they fear public speaking.

  • Nice Article Frank! I’d draw an analogy between Social Media Marketing and the rise of Linux. Once it became clear that Linux was ‘free’ the industry started scrambling to figure out how it could make money selling ‘free’ software. Two solutions prevailed; Repackaged ‘commercial’ solutions like Red Hat were aimed squarely at the corporate sector and carried a price tag. The other was ‘consulting’ – a ubiquitous term at best but covers the rest of the service industry.

    Just because a component of a service is free doesn’t mean that delivering a complex solution shouldn’t carry a cost. As a strategic sales and marketing consultant (there’s that word again), charging for setting up and managing a marketing campaign is quite simple and logical.


  • Great article. I don’t think people realize how much work can go into a good social media strategy. Like anything else it like it takes work.

  • I think that learning social media is like learning how to sculpt; it’s an art. Many have this misconception that it cost next to nothing simply because signing up for social networking sites are totally free. What can be worse: A poor strategy or no strategy? Those who fail in social media marketing have unrealistic expectations in the first place and are in a rush to get things done when first, you can’t automate human relationships online and second, social media is a long term commitment – there are no shortcuts, no matter how a guru, expert, hero, maven… tell you so. That’s my two cents.

  • Social media management doesn’t have to be time consuming or ridiculously expensive — there are a ton of (free) tools that cut down on the time it takes to run a social media campaign, like Hootsuite.

    Creative companies can hire a person dedicated to social media and still save money — hiring tech-savvy interns can be a good way to get the skills needed at a great price. And who better to handle new media than the generation that’s been most active in the space?