The Value of Social Media

In recent days I have read several articles questioning the value of social media. While many of their facts are probably correct, the implicit conclusion – that social media is overrated – is based on a false premise.

First we have an article from ZDNet entitled: “The hollow emptiness in social media numbers – most accounts are fake or empty.” Here, the author is says, and I quote, “With the possibility that nearly 50% of social network users could be fake or empty user accounts — this is a massive issue for social media marketing.” [emphasis from the author]

Second, Marketing Week (UK) says: “Social media “less useful” than thought.” The sub-heading says, “Almost half of consumers object to brand advertising on social networks that uses profile information, according to new research by YouGov.”

Assuming both articles are factually correct –  that empty accounts signal a problem for social media, and people generally do not like it when advertisements are shoved in their faces – both are based on a false premise.

Social media is not marketing.

Social media is a conversation.

Websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are forums to ask and answer questions, connect with brands, talk with other consumers, manage reputations, share information, engage in conversations and – perhaps most importantly – to listen.  Ultimately this conversation can, and does, lead to increased sales, improved reputation etc.  But it is not marketing in the conventional sense.

To be sure, the field faces many challenges, including how to deal with the aforementioned empty accounts.  And while the ROI of social media is oftentimes difficult to quantify, there are only two things I can be sure of:

(1) There is a real-time global conversation taking place right now on social media about topics that you are interested in; and

(2) These conversations are happening with or without you.

So, is social media overrated?  In my opinion, that is the wrong question to ask.  The right question is:  are you engaged in the conversation, or is it happening without you?


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2 Responses to “The Value of Social Media”

  1. Jerome Rowley (@4squareviews) Says:

    I remember you saying “social media is conversation” almost from the start at the social media workshop you held a few months ago. I think of traditional marketing in relatively passive terms compared to the active participation involved in social media.

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