Brace yourself for the backlash against social media marketing

by Dion Algeri on August 11, 2010

Warning: The hype surrounding social media marketing is about to peak. And you should all begin preparing for the backlash. Headlines will soon turn from “The Marvels of Social Media” to “Blogging Fails to Deliver Results.”

Why do I think this? Because every new technology goes through a hype cycle. One day it’s being over-hyped and the next it’s underestimated — and back again. And social media is no exception.

Back around 2006, the marketing world was abuzz about blogs. The chatter was unrelenting. Yet as time went on, people slowly lost interest. Why? Because it turned out that blogging isn’t a silver bullet for marketing. Like all effective marketing, blogging requires hard work and perseverance in order to achieve success. Blogging couldn’t live up to the extreme hype. So hype led to backlash.

Yet, blogging has lots of value. So, some people ignored the backlash, continued blogging, and built solid businesses, thanks in part to blogging. And now blogging has reemerged for a second round of hype. This time it is packaged as “social media” along with Twitter and LinkedIn and such. And the hype is bigger than ever.  It’s pretty clear that we’re setting ourselves up for another, even bigger, backlash.

So here’s my point: Social media tools are very powerful. However, they’re not marketing magic. They’re just a high-tech spin on old, time-tested marketing tactics — thought leadership and personal networking. The spoils will go to those who recognize this truth and ignore the hype (and the coming backlash).

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Keith Lee August 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm

The sooner the better.

The field is waaayyy too crowded right now and is full of people who barely understand the technology but are marketing themselves as experts in order to make a quick buck.

If a person isn’t a good networker and doesn’t have anything particularly compelling to say, applying a layer of social media/web2.0 BS over their website or blog isn’t going to help.

Dion Algeri August 11, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Keith — you are absolutely correct. Thanks to the economic slowdown, hoards of people are giving social media a shot, so the field seems very crowded right now. However, I expect that many of those people will drop off over the next year or so. While social media marketing tools are very powerful, social media marketing isn’t easy — and it isn’t going to work for everybody (for exactly the reasons you point out). I expect that many social media dabblers will realize this and bow out at roughly the same time — causing the backlash.

Jeannette Paladino August 11, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Blogging is a marketing tool, like PR and advertising. You may catch the attention of your targets but you’ve still got to make the sale. I think too many people believe that social networking is ALL they need to do to achieve success. When I first started my blog I think I secretly hoped that “build it and they will come.” Uh, uh. It’s served my purposes — as an archive of my writing, to my earning how to master the technology. I know my blog will be the centerpiece of my marketing activities for at least the near term, but I am realistic and know it is not a silver bullet.

Dion Algeri August 11, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Jeanette — thanks for sharing your thoughts. My research confirms what you are saying. Most people that are successful in marketing themselves via social media use it in conjunction with other forms of marketing. However, if you were just to listen to the hype, you’d never know that!

McRae Williams August 12, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Interesting article. Not sure I 100% agree although I may be misinterpreting. We not only employ Social Media as a new biz tactic but we also advise our clients to use it when it’s appropriate. I suppose we look at social media as one of the many weapons in our marketing toolbox and do agree with you that it is not marketing magic. We are not looking to emulate some of the one-off successes I’ve seen in social media but it certainly has earned its right to be front and center in the marketing battle. I mean what Old Spice has done with offline/online (social media) has been amazing. But the thing about them vs. let’s say the Man Groomer that Philips did, is that Old Spice has a strategy and has executed it extremely well. It wasn’t a “cross our fingers and hope it lands #1 on DIGG.”

As a new biz tactic, we find it very useful for early leads to learn more about our firm. It certainly is hard to tie it back to ROI but it certainly has had a fantastic impact.

I do like the chart you created, though, because I do agree with you that many marketers do think Social Media is a magic tool.

McRae Williams August 12, 2010 at 6:19 pm

One more thing with social media. It really depends on your intentions and desired outcomes. Those who have web based businesses can certainly use it to drive traffic and it would have good value and maybe even more value to their business then other traditional tactics, e.g., direct mail.

Dion Algeri August 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Hi McRae. Thanks for the feedback! We agree — social media is an essential business tool. Our point; any new technology tool goes through a “hype cycle” — at this moment, the actual value of social media is probably less than the perceived value, (and that results in it being thought of as “a magic tool”). The companies that stick to it will benefit in the end, but before that happens we’ll all hear a lot about how it doesn’t work.

Lee Lloyd August 15, 2010 at 10:20 pm

The hype around social media and even the user interfaces of the various platforms tend to lead the newcomer to focus primarily on maximizing followers, connections and/or friends, rather than creating outstanding content. An infinite number of articles have been written by social media “experts” describing how to maximize these quantitative network metrics. However, the path to professional success is still to provide superior client service and sound legal advice to clients. Creating outstanding content and sharing it with others via social media (or old school methods) helps to demonstrate your professional expertise — having more followers than the other guy just means you won a race no client cares about. Although I initially started using social media for marketing purposes, I have been surprised at how much I have learned from others by carefully choosing to follow people who share outstanding content.

Dion Algeri August 16, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Lee — I couldn’t agree with you more. I often have to remind myself that just because something we write attracts attention in the blogosphere (or Twitosphere) doesn’t mean that it’s successful in connecting with prospective clients. Also — the reality is that social media is just a new distribution channel for old fashioned content marketing. And the key to content marketing is writing intelligent content. Some people will be disappointed when they realize this — and thus the backlash.

Nick Pauley August 17, 2010 at 9:40 am

Bring on the backlash I say, I’m fed up with SM guru’s.

Nice article. Great headline. We’re (Pauley Creative) currently employing a mix of social media (Twitter, blogging, article writing) to muscle our way into an industry that is pretty slow on the uptake of new media. This means that any ‘quick wins’ are often not quick at all and the benefits are only rewarded to those in it for the long haul.

We’ve forged a great social media strategy that is beginning to create waves with those ‘listening’ in the sector. In fact on the strength of our own SM work (in the last 8 months) we have been invited to set up communities on industry forums, speak at industry events, submit research articles to industry publications and in one initial meeting with a leading UK house builder, the Head of marketing actually came to see us on the back of a blog post!

Having said that, I consider integration, consistency and perseverance to be the best marketing strategy, digital or otherwise. We are not taking a ‘hit and hope’ approach as some SM adopters are with social media (or any media for that matter, email is a good example) as that will never really harvest the cream of the crop.

In my opinion Social Media and Digital Marketing will all just become ‘marketing’ as the new technology or tactics make the current media channels just that, and as McRae (see above comment) intimates, it’s about advising clients on the most effective channels for them to reach their audiences.

Robert Algeri August 17, 2010 at 10:11 am

Nick,

You’ve summed it up perfectly; “Social Media and Digital Marketing will all just become ‘marketing’ ” — and we know that there’s no silver bullets in marketing.

Would love to discuss your social media strategy. Sounds like you’ve had great success. We are big believers of the “integration, consistency and perseverance” approach coupled with creating great content.

Thank you for the great comment!

Jay Pinkert August 17, 2010 at 4:09 pm

I wouldn’t describe it as a backlash as much as a necessary correction. It’s not as if marketers are wholesale abandoning and disparaging social media and networking. Rather, the tulip frenzy and accompanying fear of missing an opportunity have subsided and marketers are being more strategic and rational about how social media fits into a an integrated marketing mix. There’s a very good article in this week’s BusinessWeek on the same topic http://bit.ly/9BUA69.

VIckie Gray December 9, 2010 at 9:50 am

I am surprised and perplexed that a company marketing itself as a resource for internet and social media marketing does not include a “share” feature on its blog. This was a good article and I would like to tweet it out to my followers and add to my LinkedIn status. Most sites make this easy by putting these options in a prominent place on the site. At this point who has the time or inclination to cut and paste a url into the tinyurl site, pasting the shortened url into a tweet and then typing the title of the blog post before tweeing it out? In my opinion you need to practice what you are preaching if you want credibility in this field.

Dion Algeri December 9, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Hi Vickie. We’re thrilled that you like the post and plan to share it. And thank you for bringing to our attention that the “Share” button is not as obvious as it could be. At the end of each post there is a “share” button; in this post, it’s located under the graphic. That said, I agree with you — the button could be placed better. I’ll get the team working on that.

VIckie Gray December 9, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Thanks, Dion, I see it now under the chart. It would be great if it was more prominent perhaps at the top of the post. Meantime I shall now tweet away!

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