The seduction and betrayal of social media marketing

Wow, marketers can make new things sound good, can’t they? In recent years the gifted child that they insisted on bragging about was social media marketing. It was amazing! Advertisers loved it because it was cool. Industry loved it because it was new. Consumers started having ‘conversations’ with their favourite brands. They’d share and talk about the brands they liked with their friends, spreading sales like an epidemic. Remember when social media made traditional advertising obsolete, revolutionised the way people engage with brands, and exploded every television in the world?

Except it didn’t.

Aside from Facebook increasingly resembling a ‘social media channel’ that you switch on and ignore the adverts (just like TV), the real problem with social media marketing is that pesky facts keep demonstrably showing that its rubbish.

A report this month from McKinsey & Company condemningly stated that “Email remains a more effective way to acquire customers than social media—nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined.” And when was the last time you bought something because of an email?

This is not to say that social media marketing can’t work. As with all trends in marketing, interest is ignited by a small number of hugely successful campaigns. But literally no one seems to know why these worked and others failed, and if they do they’re not telling.


By Sean R Mills