Ahhh Social Media how you stir debate. I went along to the netimperative Social Media panel last night and it got me all raring and ready to write (it’s been a while).
So, last night the main topics brought to the panel: How can we measure ROI? Is it a fad that will disappear and what’s the next big thing?
Now firstly I have to admit that I sat in my seat, beer in hand, rather frustrated by some of the questions. It still seems that people are referring to Twitter or Facebook or Bebo as the social media, rather than the platforms that facilitate it.
Secondly measuring social media is like measuring PR, because after all, it’s pretty much the same thing but in a new real time environment. Digital marketing services like Search and Display grew so quickly because of its ability to track and measure every stage of engagement. It’s this mentality that Marketers are trying to apply to ‘social media’ – it isn’t possible and isn’t what social media is about. Of course we can measure how many comments a blog post has, how often users engage with the content and who is saying what and where, but its highly unlikely we will ever be able to say 25 people commented on this blog post, about this product and then 15 of them bought the product. Social media, online PR (whatever we want to call it) isn’t about returning investment. Its function is completely different.
Social media also isn’t anything new. People have been talking online for years. It’s the Advertising industry that has created this name since it was catapulted into the media after the success of Facebook, Twitter and the growth of the blogosphere.
The Web, when first created offered every person with access the opportunity to say what they wanted, when they wanted, and how. The only thing that has changed is the software and platforms that have enabled this conversation to happen much more easily. And because of this, blogging, Facebooking, and Tweeting are all activities that anyone can now partake in without needing development or design knowledge.
This is all great news for the Webs utopian democratic vision; unfortunately it’s us, the advertisers, who are trying to monetise this. Which means it’s our responsibility to nurture it and help facilitate it in a way that is useful, and unobtrusive.
There is no doubt in my mind that social media isn’t going away. It’s our responsibility (without sounding like a complete wanker) as advertisers to use social media platforms in the right way, on the right people and at the right time. Again and again we hear that we need to be useful, and it is all a big cliché – but it’s a cliché for a reason. Social media in many ways works the same way PR does. Looking after brand values and anticipating and preparing for the backlash. Digital is a new challenge because of the real-time nature, but his just makes it more exciting. Things are changing and businesses have to accept they cannot have full control anymore – it’s about responding to this in the right way.