The Internet industry is loaded with buzz words: social media, social commerce, m-commerce and so on. Two years ago every major corporation was hiring for a newly created position, Director of Social Media and this person set your Facebook and Twitter strategies. They created Powerpoints measuring a whole new set of metrics: likes, fans, engagement, retweets and follows. Brands have poured endless resources into these efforts believing it will all pay off with real profits. Has it happened yet? Hmmm…
Seems the true upside to having an innovative social media campaign is to be recognized as having such. When a TechCrunch writer adheres to a factoid or Mashable designer creates a slick infographic about a brand experiencing tremendous Facebook growth, the true value is not the 50,000 new fans but instead the fact that the article will be read by thousands of people about how the brand is innovative. So I question is a social media strategy more about being recognized for innovation or more about increasing revenue.
Over the past 2 years the Director of Social has created a cross-functional team from marketing, sales,and legal to implement the strategy. Are the sales rolling in now? Not yet, we need to add social commerce now. Everybody scrambles find a technology solution and adds a Shop Now tab to their Facebook page. Sales yet? Not yet, apparently people don’t shop on Facebook yet; something about trust and security.
Now what? Immerse deeper, let’s add a LIKE button to the header of our corporate website. Now? Deeper, give me a FOLLOW button right new to my LIKE button. Hmmm, what’s going on here? Are Facebook and Twitter helping brands increase annual sales or are we helping Facebook and Twitter increase their IPO valuations by plastering these code snippets all over these multi-million dollar corporate e-commerce websites? Don’t worry Google is here is save the day, I’m sure if Coca-Cola adds the brand new +1 button that we will finally have found the Holy Grail.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand there is a network effect of having a person with 3,500 Facebook friends click M&M’s LIKE button, suddenly 3,500 people are alerted to the fact that you like M&M’s. What amazes me is that Safeway still has M&M’s when I go shopping. Yes, I am suggesting that the true benefit of these affiliation buttons of LIKE, FOLLOW and +1 will be cultivated some day by Facebook, Twitter and Google when they start charging brands to intelligently recommend products and services to users. Brands wake up, you are being duped into building their informed, user-generated social graph that they will someday charge you to utilize. The buttons are a marketers dream come true, customers directly indicating what interests them. The true Facebook and Twitter innovation is convincing people is to cool to give up this information. If Facebook has done anything, they have convinced everyone that making your life publicly accessible is a fun, cool activity.
Hey Director of Social Media, what’s next? These are the same marketers that believed the following were the newest answer at one time: catalogs, postcards, telemarketing, email, websites, newsletters, blogs and so on. I do not mean to be cynical, but it does seem ridiculous when a reporter or an analyst overreacts to the potential of economic strength of a particular website or innovative paradigm shift. I am suggesting that the LIKE, FOLLOW and the +1 buttons will soon be viewed as the new spam. My eyes have already learned to ignore the LIKE, TWEET and FOLLOW buttons; +1 you are next.
Do you mind if I put my buttons at the bottom of this post? ;-)