By Andrew Ballenthin
I've been researching and writing a book on social media monetization and have seen upwards of 90% of professionals failing to get results from little or significant online efforts. After looking at over 400 professionals / businesses in the social media space and reading hundreds of how-to articles there's huge gaps. Why?
Following are some of the consistent points I'm observing. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below, thanks.
1) Lacking Zing - this is a challenging one but it keeps coming up over and over so I have to share it. A lot of content in the social media realm is not that original. All too often people are reading what's going on in their industry online and sharing another iteration of it. It may be the writer's unique view on current issues but the starting point of the topic is what everyone else is talking about.
Possible solutions: step back and ask what are the day to day things your target audience says are important. If sales are down and business is a struggle, talk to it. If the industry is getting hit with budget cuts still, talk to it. Be original, be earthy, be real. This is news and help that counts.
2) Spread Too Thin - how many social networking accounts do you have? Really? All the popular ones like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and maybe a Flickr and a StumbleUpon account too? Even if those aren't the names you have what's the body count? More top producers who do make money from their social media kept it simple and know exactly why they're using each network. Here's a report that has 300 corporations that make hundreds of millions (or billions) in revenue. Guess what, very few have more than a couple social networks they're on. Even if they want to throw huge budgets into social media they don't. They stay very focused.
Possible solutions: whether you are a business or an independent professional remember the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Silly)? It works for everything else we do in business when we are not getting the results we want. Do the unthinkable, cut back on your networks and go deep. Put all the minutes or hours into just two activities MAXIMIMUM. Really get to know people and topics within that network. You'll find there is the same amount of things to do in two networks and the hours you put into five to ten networks has a far higher payback when you get focused.
3) Not Contagious - so you have this one topic you're tweeting on and you think everyone needs to know about it because it can make such a big difference right? Not usually, sorry. Or maybe they really do but there is so much social media and online news and noise that your headline comes and goes amongst hundreds of daily messages that have to get filtered out. Big social networks are great for reaching big audiences is a myth for most businesses. There are hundreds of thousands of great ideas and news topics that never catch on with the audience. It's not the mediums fault its the approach.
Possible solutions: the rules of great communication for mass media and marketing learned these lessons a long time ago - find the right highly targeted audience, get them a message that really matters, give them a reason to talk and get it to them an interesting way. If you're following the herd of online activity its easy to get lost in the drone. Take the time to care and really reach out to your audience.
4) What Consistency? The rule in just about all media is that an audience needs to see your message three to eleven times before it even gets to their radar of visibility. Logging onto a social network once or twice a week or month may not be enough for becoming visible with your audience. If your audience has several hundred or several thousands of messages they can choose from when they log on why do your two tweets or blogs or a few comments matter?
Possible solutions: take the time to gage what is really going on within your social network. Watch the leaders and how many posts are there a week related to your industry or interest? Study this information until you really understand the dynamics. What, study and do not do? Yes. The minutes or hours you spend will be many more times valuable after you have a plan and you will connect more often to your audience.
5) No Plan Stan - I know I'm guilty of this one kinda, I know my writing themes and my goals but I'm not strict on what I'm doing with my time and energy at times. When social media did not have tens of thousands of daily messages posted it was easier to just post, get found and get connected. Here's the competition and articles that indicate how the online noise is constantly going up not down.
- Google and YouTube have serve over 10 billion videos a month
- More Marketers Focused on Digitial Spending
- Social Media Is Now Mainstream- 70% of US adults use it. (Forrester says 85%)
Possible solutions: What this data means to you is that just having a social presence is not enough. Audiences are spoiled with content and ads that will easily consume their time online. You need a plan for capturing your audience's attention. So do that, stop and take a breath and be realistic about who you want to reach and how. Online noise will only continue to grow, without your plan how will you be noticed?
This is the tip of the iceberg why 90% of people are not getting the results they want. What do you think?
Comments from LinkedIn Group Discussions
Andrew - You took a topic that nobody wants to 'fess up to and made it so compelling, although I fear I've broken all your rules so far... just today! YIKES. But, I did take it to heart and that's the most important part, right?
Keep up the good work...I be looking for you.
Gayl Murphy - Veteran Hollywood Correspondent, Speaker and Author
Good post, good content and some good points. I also enjoyed many of the comments made on your blog. I have always tried to kep things a little more simplified but am starting to get back to blogging and trying to find that "ah ha!" moment with my products. Thanks again for the tips.
Carlton Glassford - Sales and Marketing at RMGI
I definitely agree with number five. A plan is crucial for any business marketing in the social media realm.
Scott Baird - Creative/Integrated Media Director at Sterling Cross Group
Your comments are well stated. There is an overload of information in the lumped-together 'social media' world (should specify that as 'online social media'). Too much to follow, too much to filter, too many people chattering to keep up with ALL of it - or even a couple of relevant topics.
But I think this sometimes messy online world of interconnected communications is still evolving, as evidenced by the constant flow of new apps - AllTop, Tumblr, Google Wave, Kutano - cropping up regularly. We realize we need tools to help us keep up the 'zing' and measure goals. I know I keep trying them to see what will be the best mix for me.
Businesses a decade ago were trying to figure out the right keyword density on a webpage to achieve SEO nirvana, or which directory/search engine/portal was best to place ads for maximum eyeballs. I see many of these same 'keyword ads' appearing on Twitter or LinkedIn, using #hashtags and bit.ly links to draw people to product and services. I guess it depends on what you're looking to get from the activity.
Donna Lehman - President, MarketUP, LLC
My quick comments on each point:
1) Focusing on your target audience's interests and desires is perhaps the part most worth remembering. What has "zing" to US--what WE find interesting--isn't always what grabs our potential customers. Start with the aspects of "what's going on" that affect THEM, then show how YOU can make things better in a way no one else can.
2) Two thumbs up! It's so easy to get caught in the "I have to try everything or I might miss something" trap. One speaker likened this kind of thinking to a lighthouse running up and down the beach trying to get the attention of ships that weren't planning to come into ITS port anyway.
3) Relates to the points made in #1 and #2. Illogical as it sounds at first glance, those business owners who focus on a very narrow portion of the market invariably do better than those who try to sell to "everybody"--because they can really concentrate on those few items their target audiences find irrestible.
4) Here again we have the "aim at everything and you'll hit nothing" idea--but also, the importance of not being impatient. Too many people take an "instant results or I give up and try something else" approach, never staying in one spot long enough to attract anybody's attention. No one really wants to do business with a firm that never is clear on what to expect.
5) Sums up just about everything above. There's no way to achieve originality, right decisions, audience focus, and consistency without planning!
Katherine Swarts - Owner, Spread the Word Commercial Writing
Great Article! My opinion (& experience working in Social Networking) your other points are the trickle effects of either little to no planning or poor planning.
Esmeralda Cruz - Director, Client Services & Ad Operations
Fantastic information and more proof that "luck" is not a worthwhile strategy! @richardbouchez
Richard Bouchez - Independent Marketing and Advertising Professional
No plan seems to be a trend for sure. I'm surprised you didn't include reporting and/or tracking marketing efforts though. I find that to be a huge hole in most social media marketing efforts.
Ian Mackie - Internet Marketing Manager: Pay Per Click Advertising, Social Media Strategy & SEO, Blog Marketing. Photographer
The main problem is that you need "social capital." MKT / PR must supply that if the brand is not strong enough, but how many of us can boast having 20 or 30K followers?
Of course, it's very different if the product is already well-known, like a major brand or franchise.
Luis Levy - Assistant Account Executive at The Bohle Company and Author of "Game Development Essentials: Game QA & Testing."
In most cases, Social Media plans are built for point solutions and that's where lies the largest problem. No social media plan can work if it is not pursued doggedly for a while
Few views on this that i have are:
a: Social media can be leveraged well, if we give people the reason to believe in the cause rather than the brand itself. In most cases we try to sell the brand and not a belief system. EG Obama campaign was successful because people believed in the cause he was propagating.
b: Lack of fresh consistent content: Any social media campaign needs enormous amounts of fresh content being linked back through multiple channels and this needs to be an everyday job. In most cases brands have multiple approval channels on every piece of written collateral and that causes enormous delay and hence death of any traction that may be achieved
c: Lack of Strategic Planning: Social media campaigns should not be used sell products directly. Rather if we can make people part of a communication around something that the brand believes in , chances are more of gaining further traction. There needs to be a thought out campaign
d: Not every brand needs a social media campaign. It should be judiciously thought whether it is at all required.
e: In most case social media plans end in opening a blog, facebook or twitter. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Very few people actually know how to leverage these channels to build the advocacy they are trying to.Case in point: Among the millions of blogs only a handful make it to the top. Why? Because only these few knew what to do with the blog.
f: I sincerely belief that if monetization is the only motive then Social Media should not be used at all. If thought leadership/ WOM advocacy is the goal then yes it can be a great tool, provided one knows what to do with it and how to use it and can sustain it over time with fresh, innovative content, ideas, campaigns et al...
There are many more, but these come to mind readily. So there is it. My two bits. Am not claiming that am right but these are what i feel.
Dev Das - Associate Partner at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
I recently attended the SES SJC Conference and one of the market researchers, Nate Elliott of www.forrester.com, lead a seminar on this very topic.
He pointed out that the majority of people attempting to use social media for business purposes don't bother to learn about the community first.
They also don't set goals which matches your 5th step analysis of your article Andrew. Nate suggested a 4-step approach using the POST method:
People - Assess your customer's social activities to learn what they're doing.
Objective - What do you want to accomplish? Set discreet and limited objectives.
Strategy - Plan for how relationships with customers will change
Technology - Decide how you will reach them. (Which also fits with your hypothesis 2.)
What I found fascinating, since I'm a social media junky and come from the organic side of this type of discussion, generally the 25-34 age range were only 18% of the creators. On the flip side, that same age range was 48% of the spectators.
Therein lies the difficulty - how to engage those who watch since they're such a prime demographic for certain marketers. Here's the full discussion if you're curious: www.forrester.com/groundswell
My personal experience has been if the topic I'm posting or presenting is controversial, but presented in such a way as to invite a measured, balanced discussion then people feel safe to express their opinions and comment.
If not, then the post dies and goes away. I think its scary for people to engage online due to their fear of being made to look like a fool. However, if they're engaged with the person as a "friend" who is presenting the material rather than as someone trying to market to them, there's a higher chance of engagement.
I have over 2k friends on Myspace and Facebook which I reach by tweeting because then I kill two birds with one stone. Good for me, good for them!:) That's all. Just thought you all might find this of interest.
Joy Kennelly - is a writer, a copywriter, a blogger, a pundit, a fashionista, a TV critic, and whatever else comes forth
The key issues I have noticed in Social media strategies failing or struggling are;
1) Trying to do business the same old way and trying to tack social media on as another 'sales channel'
2) Being too risk averse in what customers/community may say/do and trying to contain/limit that versus focusing efforts on solving the issues and on learning from the direct feedback to improve product/service
3) Focusing on technology for the sake of technology, and not building processes, responsibilities, roles, to support the effort
4) Focusing on what is considered cool and not understanding the utility of that in organisation strategy
5) Staffing it with resources who dont really undertstand capabilities and limitations
In short the same issues that were seen with ERP/CRM implementations, where software should have been part of a better way of doing things, instead poor processes were automated and created bigger issues for organizatios which simply were not able to extract value from the investments due to weak planning efforts
Kamal Tahir - Global Product Management and Strategic Marketing Professional
Good idea and 5 interesting categories.
I'm good on 1 and 3. 2, 4 and 5 seem to be the challenges for me, though I wouldn't have selected the categories in this way.
Part of my challenge is that I love LI and try to do too much. Anther thing is I make great brief connections with lots of people and don't have consistent followup and can easily forget what our connection was - probably should be keeping notes of each, which can feel like a pain in the butt.
And I do not have a definite plan other than to connect with a lot of people and find people that I like and the feeling is mutual. To me, it's the building of relationships, knowing people and being known, that is my primary focus.
Rich Hershenson - Commercial Litigator Extraordinaire - NYC - www.litigatelaw.com"Think and Know Rich"
Are you speaking of LinkedIn, Twitter, and FaceBook? I don't consider LI to be social networking; rather I see it as professional networking. I think the term "social networking" is used loosely. Nonetheless, I agree with the five statements you mention. Face-to-face or phone contact are much more effective, though more difficult for us introverts. However, I think your percentage is a bit high...perhaps 75% failing to get results.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW - Innovative Career Trainer, Résumé Writer, MBTI Cert., Soccer Coach, Adoring Father
Great comments, Andrew. A lot of our members are telling us the same things, too. Some additional thoughts from a recent survey we did on Social media:
1. Develop a social media policy to guide your efforts, and make sure that Legal and IT have buy-in.
2. Recycle content across multiple channels, so that you're not reinventing the wheel.
3. Start small with a proven channel (a majority of our members cite YouTube as their MVP for social media) rather than trying to dabble in too many at once.
4. Build credibility through expertise. Help educate your followers, don't bludgeon them with sales pitches, or rehashes of your media site.
5. Measure the results (and time/$ invested). Many tools are free, but the time to use them isn't. Track that closely.
Cam Mackey - Director, MAPI Marketing & GM Councils
I think there is one more factor. Timing. I find that topics go hot and cold more rapidly in social networks and you have to hit the right time with your messages. I am a platinum author on ezinearticles. I can tell within the first 5 days of posting an article whether the topic I am driving is hot or not just by the number of hits I get. So any plan has to be flexible to change (repackage) the messages to follow the hot topics.
Phil Casini - Managing Partner at Advance Tech Marketing
I believe the ultimate demise of any well intentioned social media campaign is the "Human Capital" element. Everyone wants to get on board the social media train and they all get sucked into the "free" factor. As Cam says above, the tools are free, but feeding the content beast is a serious commitment. Most folks who get started fail to stay engaged for the long haul. Tired cliche but accurate, social media is a marathon, not a sprint.
Nick Cavarra - New Business Development at Fraser Communications / Producer / Writer
Thanks guys. This is very helpful and realistic commentary. We are just starting to dabble in social media and our global CMO decided to go with twitter first (?). I can see here, we have no plan, are spread too thin and given this years staffing cuts, its not going to improve. Good to know that resourcing is a key consideration if we want to make this work. There is not enough out there on ROI for this channel for B2B results. I look forward to your book.
Holly Yang - Regional Director at Jones Lang LaSalle
I would add to this that it is crucial in Social Media just as it is in traditional and online media to reach the right audience. Your message is lost if you have Facebook, Twitter or YouTube followers who are just following. With Twitter especially there are many who follow indiscriminately. Is that really your best prospect? No, it's wasted circulation just as it is in traditional media.
You can nail all the above elements and if you have poorly targeted followers/friends, your campaign fails just as it does by not properly targeting your radio, TV and online advertising.
Don Mitchell - Marketing and Advertising Professional
I would have to agree with Don to some extent. In order to attempt to build an audience of a known dimensions as opposed to a huge bunch of contacts I have chosen not to use any of the tools available for auot generating followers on Twitter or facebook, instead I have tried to grow the followers organically. I periodically weed out all the spamers and adult content and what I have found is that in Australia is that alot of organisations are speaking socially online but few people seem to be listening. Most of the followers of sportstraveller are other business's I now see this as the commercial opportunity. I am also reconsidering what I am saying on twitter to see what effect that has on followers. In summary its easy to get a volume of twitter follwers but is there any point, the jury is still out on the medium especially for small companies.
Peter Topping - E Business Consultant at Sportsnet Corporation
The buzz about social media is overrated because when you boil it down is it is plainly another form of communication. It's a tool. Too much emphaisis is placed on social media as the means for growing sales and building community. The real advantage of growing sales and building community falls to professional communication skills, which has been the case since the typewriter.
When email became a primary communication tool, did workshops and seminars pop up? Social media is the method that sends the message. It is not the message in itself. Am I right or wrong?
Doug Fleischli - Public Relations, Writer and Visionary "Telling Your Story To The World"
Useful check-list, Andrew.
In my experience, companies in Southeast Asia want to do something with social media and are experimenting, but are very tactical rather than strategic in their approach (to your point 5 - no plan stan).
Next question: what are the answers to the five points? Particularly item 2 is a tough sell because experiments are not likely to get funded for extra headcount.
Until and unless there's a real return on investment companies will not treat social networks seriously.
Mark LAUDI - Media Consultant
While I agree with all your points and especially Point No 5, I can think of three other and very important reasons ( from an organization point of view) why 90% of Socila Media Efforts fail.
1) Lack of Senior Management Buy-In
2) Lack of adequate Bandwidth (Read: Human Resource Bandwidth)
3) Lack of an integrated approach with other Traditional/Conventional Media Plans
Would love to know your thoughts on the same.
Carona Mohapatra - Online Strategist at Wipro Technologies
An excellent piece of article with true insight.
This is what i speak to my clients. Most of them only talk about the success stories that have been achieved on Social Media. But they donot look into the methods that have been used to achieve that success.
They get into social media band wagon because every one are into it.
Palani Balasundaram - Online Marketing Consultant
The success that I have seen is where planners are looking at the technologies as yet one other way of user and customer engagement which is part of a bigger plan. CRM, SM, Portals, Extranets, and even integrated marketing efforts. Focus needs to be on a two way exchange and value.
In a previous project, just coupling portals, collaboration capabilities and CRM helped reduce the leasing cycle time from 3 months to less than 30 days for one of the largest mall operators in North America.
The focus was on how the dialogue will take place, what dialogue will take place, how will both parties benefit from teh dialogue, what can they do with it, and how.
I can not stress the importance of the "so what" question. the technology is in place, so what...what does it give the customer/user and what does it give the company. Too many companies dont know how to answer the "so what" question.
Kamal Tahir - Global Product Management and Strategic Marketing Professional, The Nielsen Company
Thought provoking post, Andrew. Thanks for sharing.
This got me to thinking...in a way, these 5 points parallel the reason(s) why so many new efforts (from new products to marketing campaigns) fail. Seems that the same mistakes keep getting made, regardless of channel or medium. To me, THAT'S a sad, and scary, thing to ponder.
Ted L. Simon - Game Changing Strategic Marketing Executive and Brand Builder