Leave Social Media Alone!

Do you remember when everyone was talking about Web 2.0? How everything needed to be 2.0? So much so that it eventually became a joke?

The truth was, there was no “2.0” anything. No new technology or specific design treatment. It was a rallying cry to get more people excited about an interactive internet where people could chat with each other, collaborate with each other and exchange data, instead of just viewing it.

Social Media may have taken 2.0’s place. It has become industry jargon for “Just do something on Facebook”. Which has lead to nearly every brand on Facebook creating in-depth Facebook pages, spending millions on advertising and in some cases, establishing entire divisions of workforce to supporting the channel. This of course has lead to a lot of recent questions from marketers around the world as to the value of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. in delivering on actual sales.

What was once a shiny new object in our marketing mix, Social Media has become another tool in our toolbox that holds no more intrigue than TV or Radio. We’re used to it.

Case in point - Digital and Traditional media buying are blending together because Digital has grown up and has matured into a much easier to plan medium.

The only problem is that digital isn’t just an advertising medium. It’s just easier to think of it that way. And the more we depend on advertising platforms within existing social media sites, the more we forget why we had started using them in the first place.

What if instead of wondering whether Facebook sells a product or not - we wonder about its effectivness in increasing consideration to buy a product? It’s not the most easily measured point in a sales funnel, but it’s certainly there, and Social Media is still one of the highest drivers of consideration to purchase than any other medium.

Since Valleywag published their now famous article about Facebook’s waining engagement rates (here) - marketing pundits have been looking for every angle they can to explain why Social Media isn’t as great for advertising as we once thought. And why shouldn’t they? Did we really use it that well?

The original value proposition of Facebook was never to sell anything. Nor was Twitter’s nor was Instagram. The value proposition has always been to better connect with people around us. Friends, family, business associates, students, you name it. And all of these networks do an amazing job of that.

Maybe we’ve been looking at the wrong numbers altogether. 

Over just the last ten years - we’ve moved from a pure focus on impressions and views, to clicks and purchases. But we’re still missing key points of the sales funnel in our analytics. 

If the new engagement numbers from Facebook are an indicator of anything, it's that we're looking at the wrong metrics. We need to start relying less on the stories we push to our audiences - and look to leverage the stories that our audiences already have about us. Those are the stories that hold the most trust and drive real sales.

It’s been 10 years since Tim O’Reilly turned Web 2.0 into an official term. Maybe we should celebrate that anniversary by reminding ourselves that Social Media is a vital part of our marketing efforts to get to a sale, but not necessarily convert it for us.