What a magical, fantasy world Social Media promised advertisers. It was going to open the door to a Shangri-La of virtually free conversations about brands with all their adoring customers. The age of advertising by the “Interruption Model” was over. Consumers saw commercials interrupting their TV programmes as the hidden pube in the rice pudding of life.
Instead, the Interruption Model was to be replaced by the supersexy new “Permission Model”. This was based on the idea that the consumer was hell-bent on Hoovering up information from her multiple devices and was hungry for interesting “content”. So you simply pumped reams of stuff vaguely related to your market, – or if they were lucky, some truly entertaining features or games – directly to her iPad, and she’d beat a path to your Facebook site.
But it was fool’s gold.
The digi-goldrushers built this entire fantastic confection around the idea that the same consumer who changed channel the moment your advert came on would dive for her iPad to interact with you, purely because you gave her a modern interface.
Then, naturally, she would gabble away to her friends about how marvellous your new sanitary wipe was because it was more interesting than looking at pictures of kittens.
A lot of marketers took the rusty old hook right into their gullet. But probably few more enthusiastically than those at Pepsi. The Pepsi Refresh Project was about as successful as a social media project can be. In social media terms, that is.
It registered 80 million votes, three and a half million likes, and 60,000 Twitter followers.
However, the real-world results painted a different picture.
Over the same period, Pepsi-Cola and Diet Pepsi each lost 5% of their market share. Which, in real money, is about $350 million.
That’s right. They lost $100 dollars for every like.
They also, for the first time ever, lost their No. 2 spot in the U.S. market. To Diet Coke.
And their market share plummeted 8 times faster than it had the previous year – before the Refresh Project.
This entire Grand Delusion was borne out of the fact that marketers mistrust what they take to be “old” information – e.g. time-honoured understanding of traditional consumer behaviours – and are suckers for any new trend which they think might help them gain a cheap head-start over their competitors.
So here’s the cold truth. – There are no cheap head-starts.
New ways to market never have and never will replace all that has gone before. If they become established, they just become one extra channel, diluting your marketing pound further.
Facebook – far from becoming a free message board to allow you to chat up your consumers in their own boudoirs – has become just another old-fashioned paid medium. The only way of reaching significant numbers of customers is by buying ads on Facebook pages.
In other words, Facebook has become just another branch of the hated Paid Media. Except the restrictions on what you can say on a Facebook ad compared with, say, a newspaper ad, make it hardly worth bothering with.
Compare social media with just about any consumer channel and it comes off worst. Even email.
A recent McKinsey report said:
“Email remains a more effective way to acquire customers than social media – nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined.“
That’s email. Spam. The stuff you delete the moment it comes into your inbox.
Yep, social media are a fantastic boon for rekindled friendships, families across the sea and divorce rates, but as a serious sales tool? You’d have to have your head examined.