Full Disclosure – I think Social Media Marketing is BS

by Thomas MORADPOUR on November 27, 2010 · 32 comments

Don’t get me wrong.

I love social media. I work on a brand with millions of Facebook likes around the globe. My biggest project right now is a social playground. And I am such a Twitter addict that I have the founder of #Klout as a mutual friend.

But there is no such thing as Social Media Marketing. Sorry. I know this may get me a lot of heat in the blogging space. Since this is just my first blog post, let me explain my core beliefs as a brand builder.

There is only Marketing.

Tools are changing, but fundamentals stay true. You can only do three things to create a bond between your brand and  its audience.

Once you have something to say:

  • you can tell them yourself,
  • you can have someone else say it for you,
  • you can let them discover it for themselves.

For ease of discussion, I will call the first Broadcast, the second Sharing and the third Brand Experience.

BROADCAST is what most brands have been doing since the “good ol’ days” of mass marketing. And with all the fuss about “talking with” vs. “talking at”, I still believe broadcast has a bright future, because most audiences still want to sit back and watch. Yep’: 90% are spectators of your brand, not participants. But today’s Broadcast is about creating creative and entertaining stories to embed your brand in – on TV or other screens; in print or through in-store presence. No patience left in the world for boring.

SHARING is what you’ll think of first when someone says Social. Fact is most people trust peers more than advertising today – the branding Grail is to engage advocates who will carry your flag for you. This is not ‘new’ conceptually (PR, hello), except today’s social media let you leverage armies of online fans!

BRAND EXPERIENCE is the most ignored part, by most marketers and agencies. It’s what consumers get out of every interaction with your product… or your business… or your people! It should be plain awesome! And yes, I do mean to say that your packaging design sits in the same box as your customer care, Twitter dialogue or even Human Resources. It’s all direct experience with you – the most powerful way to create fans.

So sure, we can (should) use Social Media in our marketing. But if we start treating it as a separate discipline, I think we’re missing the bigger picture: combining all three communication pillars to create truly iconic brands.

Full disclosure – that’s just a thought and discussion starter.

So please jump in, agree or disagree, and let’s start a discussion!

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  • http://www.strategicdriven.com Joseph Ruiz

    Interesting post Tom, funny how the consumer doesn’t think of organizational structure and marketing they just interact with a brand (or they don’t)

    Creating the brand experience you described above can lead to a real competitive advantage for organizations that can pull it off.

    Good reminder to keep the focus where it belongs, on the consumer.

  • http://www.twitter.com/skypulsemedia Howie

    I agree 100%. The BS is carved out by the Snake Oil Sellers trying to make a quick buck. I can name a few that get paid to speak and write books but really only help their own bottom line.

    Social Media is a Revolution in Interpersonal Communication Technology. Notice marketing is not part of that statement!

    • http://twitter.com/10communication 10communications | amsterdam

      Social media as we know today in marketing for brands, has nothing to do with interpersonal communication. The consumer mostly is a person, but is following the brand 9 out of 10 because of ‘the follow back’. The brands have the communication executed by agencies, using scripts. 10communications found out, Coca Cola uses the same agency as Pepsi – not so the real thing.

      Yes, social media technologies are revolutionizing communication – but what the marketing world needs now is a bunch of smart, onorthodox thinkers and developers, to make social media really work.

      • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

        Boy, I agree with your last point!
        thanks for the comment!

  • moondustwriter

    I agree with you but I also believe that certain industries are being driven and profoundly influenced by Social Media. In my area of expertise -changes are occurring daily.

    Welcome to blogging and thanks for your thought provoking post

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      Thanks!

  • http://hrthinktank.net Jason

    So you aren’t really saying that social marketing is BS – you are saying that social media marketing as it’s own discipline, and in the absence of the other, time proven mediums, is a bad strategy. To that, I agree, social media should be one tool in the marketers tool belt.

    What is complete BS is the new market built allowing everyone and their brother to become self-proclaimed social media gurus, ninjas, mavens, , and to offer consulting with very little ‘real world’ business experience.

    Good post Tom.

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      Thanks Jason! Yes, that’s exactly what I mean :-)

  • http://www.themountaintop.ca JefftheSensei

    Hi Tom,

    Congrats on joining the blogging ranks. I am positive you will as passionate on this as you are on Twitter; perhaps more considering this medium enables passionate exploration of topics.

    As to your first post… I agree and would also add some kindling to the fire you’ve set.

    I agree that the hullabaloo around Social Media is driven in part by those selling something they have no business selling and part by companies nearing panic on losing control of their brands. And to your three pillars, you are right in that it never stands alone; nothing does.

    Also agreed with your point regarding the lack of attention on the brand experience. To me, this is the anchor of every brilliant strategy as your other two pillars become impotent without a good, memorable experience. Will someone share a mediocre experience? No. Will someone share a negative experience? Hell yes.

    To add fuel to your fire and challenge a bit, do you believe that social has the potential to overtake broadcast? While it is young as a marketing channel, its potential to change the enterprise and how we engage is impressive.

    Great start and her’s to your bright future in social media marketing! :)

    Cheers!

    Jeff – Sensei

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      Jeff, thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it!
      On your question… I don’t know.
      I think broadcast has a bright future. Social is great, but people still enjoy sitting back and being spectators. Active participation has a limit.
      That said, I don’t think of social vs broadcast. I think of social within Broadcast, Sharing and Brand Experiences. Each strategy can be made more social, I think.
      Tom

  • Sueanne Shirzay

    All interesting and true points, but I’m a perfect example of how Social Media marketing is the real deal, not BS -no how no way. Online sales have gone up over 2000% in the last year, mostly due to how I use Twitter and Facebook. Friends have been made. Networking is so easy. A band of loyal cheerleaders are happy to help me.

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      Thanks Sueanne and happy to meet you. We continued this on Twitter already!
      “If we’re two and always agree, then we’re one too many”
      Tom

  • http://www.cmp.ly Ruth Wagner

    This is a terrific article. I am in full agreement with enhancing the brand experience thru Social Marketing.

    And then there is the issue of full transparency and disclosure. Brands need to find a way to keep tight controls over this and obviously this poses a real challenge in short form media (Tweets, Facebook status updates, or Foursquare check-ins) for marketers.

    CMP.LY has developed the only comprehensive disclosure method that addresses a marketer’s specific needs and liabilities under the revised FTC guidelines for all social media today (including blog posts, Facebook updates and tweets). We have worked very closely with the FTC to review and establish compliance standards for advertisers. We work with several Fortune 100 companies on their blogger outreach campaigns and their paid endorsements. CMP.LY was developed to protect the blogger and advertiser and provide full analytics in case of FTC audits. (FYI, we have worked closely with Klout on their outreach programs).

    The guidelines may be complex, but the solutions can be simple. For examples, see a great example of a disclosure that was posted earlier today:

    http://cmp.ly/6/uep9w6

    and, of course, my disclosure:
    http://www.cmp.ly/4/co2loq

    Thank you for your article – good stuff.

    Ruth
    http://www.CMP.LY

  • http://fingercandymedia.com/ Jessica Northey

    In the spirit of what you wrote I understand where you are going with this. My background is traditional media….I sold TV, Radio and print…also was an on-air personality. I think of Social Media as being very similar to radio but looking more like TV. LOL
    We create a community and people contribute to the process. In radio it is all on the broadcasters side but in Social Media it is a two way street and info is exchanged.
    In selling “air” often it would be mistaken as a “referral” client would say that customer told them about a sale price that they knew they were only advertising on our station but the customer would say they heard it from a friend.
    I like that you are starting conversations. Thanks for your post!

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      Thanks Jessica!
      seeing the number of comments, it does feel like a conversation is starting indeed! I love it!

  • http://www.margieclayman.com Marjorie Clayman

    Hmm. I’m going to have to digest this for awhile.

    I’ve seen a lot of debate about what exactly Social Media is in regards to marketing. I think part of the disconnect is that while for marketers all of these sites are tools (or weapons as some say), for others, who are not in the world of marketing, Twitter and Facebook are ways to keep in touch with friends.

    That’s it.

    They don’t care about our Klout scores. They don’t care about whether comments are the real gold in a blog. They don’t care about professional etiquette. If they like your product, they may like your page. As Jay Baer has pointed out, most people like a page and do not expect to have much more interaction there.

    This is really not different or new, however. People buy magazines so that they can read, not so that they can analyze each advertisement. People watch TV (sometimes, I think) for the entertainment value. Ads are annoyances.

    I would say that Social Media Marketing is not BS. I would say that it needs to not work in a vacuum. I would say it requires a recognition that you are entering into a space where people can’t just flip a page and move past you – marketing in this space can be pushy and more invasive. We have to always have an eye towards the space as the users see it, not just as marketers see it.

    I need to do more thinking, but it’s certainly a great and thought-provoking post!

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      Margie

      Thanks for coming and commenting on both posts – you know I hugely respect and value your POV!

      I agree with you wholeheartedly on the difference between SM users, and marketers. So I’d draw a distinction here between “social media” and “social media marketing”.
      The first is what people and businesses use… as you say… for many different reasons.
      The second is how brands and business use Social Media to connect with their targets.

      My POV is that SMM does not do anything fundamentally new or different versus other marketing channels.
      - You can use SMM to broadcast your content. Just as you do through other advertising channels. And like everywhere else, it’d better be good!
      - You can use SMM to drive peer-to-peer sharing. PR and offline WOM have always been part of the marketing arsenal.
      - You can use SMM to create brand experiences. In SMM it may be by creating a real dialogue on Twitter. Offline it may be what happens in your stores or through your customer service.

      What I call BS is not the use of SM in your marketing. I call BS the view that SMM is fundamentally different, and is different discipline.
      It’s not. It’s still Marketing and should be thought out as part of a broader arsenal of tactics.

      Tom

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  • http://www.PerTalks.com Ken Rosen

    Tom,
    Not only do I agree, I find the challenge of “it’s all about SM” vs. “it’s just good Marketing” to be a challenging diversion slowing progress in many (twitter) chats.

    The idea that somehow social media is different and is the only environment in which holy SM worlds like authenticity, brand, and promise make sense gets people off track. Sure, someone invariably throws in “You need a strategy first!” But that’s rarely the point. The point is independent of media: a commitment to understanding your target audience, knowing how it learns, knowing how it thinks, and commitment to your brand promise even when it is hard (or unprofitable)–all the while manifesting this in whatever media is available.

    For those old enough to live through the 90s, I believe we have the perfect metaphor: in the 90s, there were “internet businesses.” 15 years later, there were only businesses.

    Cheers, Ken

    Performance Works
    Blog: http://www.PerTalks.com

  • http://heidicohen.com Heidi Cohen

    Congrats on your new blog! I agree that at it’s core social media marketing is about old fashioned marketing and building relationships with prospects and customers. There’s no shortcut for building a relationship. Social media marketing provides new tools and ways to accomplish our goals. My one quibble is the title of your post. Social marketing, started by Philip Kotler, has very specific meaning- it’s a form of cause marketing. It’s an easy mistake so don’t sweat it I made a similar mistake on an social media marketing post.. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      Hi Heidi,
      Thanks, and you’re right. Call it a typo – - I changed it ;-)
      Tom

  • http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com/ Olivier Blanchard

    Yeah. The biggest problem with the “social media” craze is that it has been taken over by Marketing departments. 41% of SM Strategists come from Marketing backgrounds while only 1% come from customer service backgrounds, for instance.

    Now… the social web is all about people talking with people, right? Friends talking about whatever: News, other friends, stories, politics, products, etc. Now consider the fact that these “engagement” dynamics are driven by “conversations,” right? Recognize the buzzwords? Okay. So answer me this: How often do consumers talk to Apple’s, Starbucks’, BMW’s and Pepsi’s marketing departments? Until now, did any company’s marketing departments ever focus on chatting with customers? None.

    Customer service departments, on the other hand, have been talking with consumers and listening to them for years. THAT discipline actually has experience with engagement and conversations. Marketing doesn’t.

    So why the hell are we focusing so much time trying to make social media fit int a marketing model that doesn’t lend itself to social dynamics?

    As soon as companies realize that “social” is department-agnostic and NOT a marketing function, they will begin to understand how it actually plugs into their business model. ;)

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  • http://www.proworks.com/blog Loyan

    Great post! Two thoughts in reaction:

    1. As long as “social media” is perceived as a complicated new discipline with the potential of incredible reward and great risk, anyone with “Social Media [Blank]” on their business card will have a protected space to fill. I offer this as a motive for “pros” and “gurus” to facilitate the perception of “social media marketing” as a separate brand objective.

    2. I might be guilty of over word-crunching here. Do we really ~interact~ with products or businesses? Do interactions only occur between people? Isn’t enabling people-to-people the core value of social media tools?

  • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

    I’ve come by social networking naturally (not that I’m cool or anything, but I tend to truly want to connect with people more than throw my books at them). Thank you for this post. You articulate what I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around. Well done.

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      Thanks Mary – always appreciate feedback :-)

  • http://www.jeremyparnaby.com jeremy parnaby

    A friend has just opened a shop and, despite the recession, has got off to a flying start. Reading your post i can see that part of the reason for her success is that she has actively pursued all three fundamentals that you list. I wonder whether established brands would be more successful if they thought of themselves as start-ups and acted accordingly.

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      That’s a great thought, Jerremy, thanks!

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