Why I Am a Social Media Skeptic

As a marketer, and a creative person in general, I am always excited to see and try the latest innovations our industry has to offer. When Social Media (SM) first emerged as as a medium, I was very enthusiastic, and ran a number of tests. As I got into it, some were very, very successful, where message met target market successfully and created sales (that is what we are here for right?). Others, were not so successful – in fact they were bombs. So much so, that I considered abandoning SM all together.

Yet, I kept seeing SM consultants saying how great the medium is. Try a Google search on Social Media Criticism and most of the articles are about how to respond to criticism on social media, rather than looking at the medium critically. All of this hype bothers me and takes credibility away from our industry. If we critiqued and analyzed more within the industry, we would be able to be more accountable to our stakeholders, and create more useful programs. Here are some reasons why I am a social media skeptic.

1. There Is No One-Size-Fits-All Solution: In Marketing, as in all things, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Yet, SM consultants seem to think that they always have the answer. Any marketer in traditional media knows that you use the right strategy in the right situation. Tools include: Direct Mail, Trade Shows, TV, Radio etc. And, the it takes an intelligent planner or strategist to determine the right mix for your market and brand. But for some reason, the SM consultants think you should throw that all away and use their tools despite your situation. I guess when you have a hammer, all you see is nails.

2. You Need to be Where Your Customers Are: Despite what the SM Acolytes will tell you, not everyone is in the conversation. One of the true guiding principles in marketing for me is that you need to meet your customers where they are. If you are selling to say, Owners of Hotel Properties in the Hospitality Industry for example, I do not think they are spending their time on SM. That person is typically working 12-hour days, and is not on the internet. You should be focusing on Direct Sales with a rep with industry knowledge, experience and contacts. Look for where your customers are – social networks often have demographic information about their users.

3. Your Time is Money: In my experience with Franchise networks, there are many business owners who are approached by SM consultants who say that SM is a free tool to get leads. In some industries, this is true, but in many, it is not. Spending hours updating Twitter, Facebook and blogs is not as useful in many industries as PPC or offline activities.

The best thing to do with any new medium is to start small and test, then go big if it is successful. As a SM skeptic, I am not dismissing it, but I am testing it. I hope that as the industry matures, the consultants in it will as well.