Bob's Blog

Social media marketing – myth or silver bullet

That’s a biggie. The first thing to do is to define ‘marketing’. My dictionary defines it as ‘the part of a business which controls the way goods or services are sold’. That’s a bit simplistic, almost sketchy; try ‘the dissemination of information to a pre-selected audience in order to encourage an opinion’. In other words, although marketing is generally associated with commerce, it has many applications elsewhere.

As a rule of thumb, if an organisation wants to influence a consumer, depending on who that consumer is, of course, social media can be a very effective tool indeed. For example, there are the vloggers – those who have managed to attract a following in order to express their views on particular consumables – that make a very comfortable living by extolling the virtues of a given product they are reviewing. It does beg the question that if the manufacturer has paid the vlogger for the review, is it a review or an advertisement? Well, that’s for the consumer to decide. A gardener friend of mine generates most of his work through Facebook, and does very well at it. If you were selling stairlifts, however, you may not enjoy much in the way of success.

So far so good for the dictionary version of marketing. Let’s have a look at the other definition of marketing. Now we can think about Donald Trump’s use of Twitter. How about the Cambridge Analytica scandal? Wikileaks? Were the Russians involved with Brexit? So for the question ‘is social media an effective platform for marketing?’ then the answer in this context is most definitely yes. But the efficacy of social media is really dependent on the digital appetite of the consumer: we all have the stereotypical image of – usually young – people glued to the screens of their phones, so if you want to influence or sell to that audience, then fill your boots. But what if you are a business wanting to communicate with other businesses; will social media work there too?

People who run businesses are by definition business savvy. Businesses need to generate new customers, and in order to do so are aware of the cost of acquisition for each new customer: this has to include time, research, marketing budget, sales force and associated costs, collateral etc. etc.. If the business is marketing to a niche rather than mass market, then having to process enquiries from all and sundry, many of which may have no genuine interest to purchase, is a waste of resources. Rather than rely on social media, effort must be put into finding the correct media to target just those that you wish to message, preferably to the exclusion of those you don’t. There will be media owners that cater for nearly all needs; trade magazines and websites, for example. More established media, despite the fact it isn’t new, trendy and funky, has its place; why do you think half of television advertising is for websites?

So back to the question that heads this piece; myth or silver bullet? The answer could be both, but totally dependent on what you’re offering and who you want to influence.