- Thursday, May 21st, 2009
A recent report from Knowledge Networks is warning us that you can’t really sell anything utilizing social media. Of course, as Ad Age pointed out the other day, many actual businesses would disagree. So, let’s dig into this report a bit and see what we’ve got.
According to Marketing Vox, a subset of the report’s findings were based on a survey of 418 social media users, who responded to the question “How often do you refer to social media Web sites or features as a resource for information, reviews, or recommendations when in the market for [category]?”
Now, below are two key stats from the report that journalists and bloggers are latching on to in an attempt to discredit social media as a viable part of the sales channel. They are using these stats to create headlines such as “Twitter Is A Marketing Fools Hype”:
- “Less than 5% of social media users regularly turn to these sites for guidance on purchase decisions in any of nine product/service categories.”
- “Only 16% of social media users say they are more likely to buy from companies that advertise on social sites.”
Okay, I have some issues with the above. In my opinion, those stats are pretty much useless, and meant to inflame. And by inflame, I mean, meant to get Knowledge Networks some PR and some eyeballs to the publisher who is using the stats to discredit social media (since it’s the marketing topic du jour). Let me explain why, here are my counterpoints to the bullets above:
So, less than 5% of users regularly turned to social media sites for guidance on purchase decisions? Obviously, this is a small number and meant to drive home how little consumers turn to social media when proactively looking to make a purchase. First, let’s not ignore the fact that the word “regularly” is in the finding. I think that we can safely assume that this number would be higher if the stat was tracking people who “sometimes” use social media to inform their purchase decisions. Or, people who have used social media in the past to inform their decisions. Why is it all or nothing?
Second, I wonder what would happen if you swapped out “social media Web sites or features” with “Television” (or virtually any other marketing channel) in the survey question above. A vast majority of people don’t use T.V. as a resource when in the market for a product/service either. I didn’t sit down the other night thinking, “I really want a six pack of beer, and a truck. I’m going to watch the Laker game to get some information on what I should buy”. Where is the report that says “Television Watchers Turn To TV To Be Entertained Or Informed, Not For Advertisements”? Why does the Interactive space always get held to a higher standard than traditional? This is what we do, it’s marketing. If brand’s only marketed to people when they were proactively looking for guidance, then there would only be like three channels: Google, POP Displays, and the Yellow Pages.
Only 16% of users are more likely to buy from companies that advertise on social sites. Really? “Only” 16%? That number seems high to me. I don’t know about you, but those ads on the right hand side of my Facebook profile for “women over 30″ and “make $75 an hour from home” don’t exactly drive me to action. And they certainly don’t make me “more likely to buy” from that business/brand simply because they are on a social networking site. Also, and I’ll touch a bit more on this below, but if a brand’s entire social media strategy it to “advertise” to their consumers on relevant sites… they’re in big trouble. They should be engaging, not just advertising.
The survey question, in and of itself shows a fundamental disconnect between how consumers interact with social media, and how most brands seem to think that they should be interacting with consumers (on those sites). In my opinion it comes from a traditional marketing/advertising mindset. The model for social media is completely different. It’s completely different from “traditional interactive” even. Just because the consumer isn’t on those sites looking for information, doesn’t mean that they aren’t open to it. It’s not about brands broadcasting their carefully molded messaging. It’s about using the tools at our disposal to engage, listen, communicate, and ultimately sell. It’s about building real two-way relationships with consumers that are mutually beneficial. And yes, it’s sometimes about providing unobtrusive, meaningful and relevant guidance/information about our offering(s).
Starbucks has nearly 1.5 million fans on Facebook. Whole Foods has over 655,000 followers on Twitter. Naked Pizza recently ran a Twitter promotion that resulted in 15% of that day’s revenue. If you think that social media can’t help you sell, you aren’t working hard enough.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, let me know below.
It’s time to get back to basics and start building relationships again