Social Media Marketing: Hype or the Real Deal?

We may argue about the effectiveness of social media presence/campaigns for business promotion and sales generation, but one thing that no one seems to doubt is that it is one of the hottest topics in present-day marketing. Whether fueled by a global hype or not, but Google Instant keeps popping suggestions on social media marketing even when I’m not looking for things related to it at all… Google prides itself with its prediction technology which helps it “predict the rest of your query (in light gray text) before you finish typing” [more here]. Well, here’s what I get:

1. When we type in “social”, “social network” is among the top 5 suggestions:

2. Type in “why marketer” and you get:

3. When you start with “how do marketer” Google Instant suggests:

4. If you type in “can you market”, the social medial outlets are even more prevalent:

5. And, finally, should you wonder about “effective marketing”, the suggestions go as follows:

Wow… You can believe in social media marketing or not, but clearly there’s no way to ignore it…

It is interesting to see where Gartner places social media developments in its annual “Hype Cycle” report of emerging technologies:

According to the above curve, out of social media technologies:

  • Social analytics is on the rise. Gartner says “the value resides in applying” predictive analytics techniques “in new applications such as social analytics and sentiment analysis”.
  • Microblogging (which predominantly happens on Twitter) is 2 to 5 years, and it’s on the bottom of the “Peak of Inflated Expectations”.
  • Corporate blogging, social software suites, and wikis which were scored in the previous Hype Cycle report are no longer there, but should be in Gartner’s “Slope of Enlightenment” now.

I’m split on the subject of social media marketing effectiveness (I could certainly use more analytics data). I do understand how when properly handled social media efforts increase engagement with brands (personal or corporate) and facilitate loyalty growing “fans”; but I, personally, do not know of one marketer who could confidently compare the sales effect of social media efforts to, say, search engine-based paid search, SEO, or affiliate programs. But then again: shouldn’t we distinguish between the types of social media efforts? Blogging isn’t the same as microblogging (aka “tweeting”), and even within Facebook — a PPC campaign is very different from interaction with consumers via a “fan” page.

What do you think? What has been your experience? Does social media marketing work for you? The comments are all yours.

4 thoughts on “Social Media Marketing: Hype or the Real Deal?”

  1. I think it depends on your marketing goals. If your goal is direct response, i.e., converting people to buy right then and there, then simply tweeting an offer or blogging about it or pointing it out on your Facebook Fan page probably will lead to disappointing results. Chances are that only a tiny percentage of people seeing the tweet, or blog/Facebook page are actively looking for whatever you’re selling. Contrast that with someone in the search engines finding your site or seeing your ad — because they’re already looking and thus in shopping mode.

    On the other hand, if your marketing goal is drive traffic to a website or increase word of mouth, then social media is a great marketing approach — certainly much more cost effective than buying PPC ads.

    1. …and I concur, Anita. Additionally, even within social media there are opportunities to actually sell right then and there (e.g. driving Facebook paid search ad to a page with a Facebook store, or a listing of a house you’re selling)… So, I guess, there cannot be (and will not be) a one-for-all answer, but the strategy (and goals pursued) will have to be tied to the medium (or even the type of campaign within that medium) used.

  2. It’s the real deal. Social media channels are only increasing, and consumers want to have that two- way communication that social media provides them. Not having a social media marketing plan for a business could hurt it. It isn’t just about raising sales, it is also about reputation management and having an online presence.

  3. This was a very detailed post and well done. As an internet marketer, I have not really seen much in the way of traffic or an increase in opt-ins or sales because of my social efforts. I still see more traffic from just regular old SEO and back-linking. Possibly it could be my niche. Maybe if my site was more into entertainment or something like that, social bookmarking and networking might be more beneficial. I am still on the fence with this…

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