The Social Media Fog is Rolling In

by · May 29, 201317 comments

Well, we are definitely in the midst of the rise of social media…  It is no longer a fad.  It is no longer weird.  It is no longer just your kids on there.  The stodgy leadership of your gigantic company knows that social media can’t be ignored anymore.  The budgets are not only there to be spent, but are actually starting to swell.  There are people with enough experience to be hired to take on roles defined for the digital space.

There is actually a digital executive now, and he or she is one of the most popular folks in any building I walk into.  In fact, they have the ear of leadership in most places I spend my time these days.  I often chuckle inside when I meet one of them, because I remember the days when I first told my company that the internet could be used to listen to consumers and they laughed at me.  This was back in 2006 when Facebook hadn’t taken over the planet and Twitter hadn’t been invented yet.  And while I sound smug about it, I am.  Why?  Because when you take a lot of shit from people for being crazy and then they forget to tell you later that you weren’t mad, you kind of want to at least think to yourself “I told you so” even if you don’t say it out loud.

Back then, after using social media analytics to inform the business on a project by project basis, my partner and I presented to the VP of Corporate Marketing asking for him to spend $275,000 the next fiscal year on a full time analyst from our analytics vendor.  He looked at me like I was insane, until we dropped the bomb on him that we had spent $500,000 on about 15 projects when he would get 50 the following year by investing the $275,000 we were asking for.  I was amazed at how fast he got his check book out when he heard that news.

So what’s the point of this?  And why am I writing about something called the social media fog?  Because the acceptance of social media does not mean that companies fully understand how to leverage it yet.  I certainly don’t and I spend my entire day trying to help companies figure out how to create viable use cases that demonstrate the value of social media listening to their business.  And frankly, I am making it up everywhere I go.  I see tons of commonality between stops and the patterns are definitely emerging, but as I often say you need three things to make your program work.  First, you need to buy the tools.  Then you need a process to apply those tools.  The last step, which is the most important, is you need a culture willing to accept the new process using the new tools.

So what is the social media fog?  It’s about what volume is doing to your marketing program.  Think about it.  Everyone gets the point that they need to be marketing in the social space.  This is why pushing content still represents about 80% of efforts in social media programs, leaving only 20% for pull.

Some might argue what the balance between pushing content and pulling information to garner insight is changing and I wouldn’t argue with that.  The reality, however, is that this equilibrium remains unbalanced.  And because many of us are still more concerned with pushing out their message to the market than understanding the market, there is risk in the strategy.  Why?  Because no one would argue that the volume of content is growing exponentially.  If there was a word that was faster than exponentially, we would use it when discussing social data creation.  This is where the social media fog comes in.

What is the social media fog?

Your efforts to market under these conditions is guesswork (at best) without listening

If each soundbite represents a small droplet of fog in the social media atmosphere, then currently it is too thick to see.  And if the fog is too thick because of the volume of data out there, then your efforts to market under these conditions is guesswork (at best) without listening.  The social media fog is the realization that most marketing campaigns are just a droplet in a very thick fog and that without knowing where to pinpoint your message, you risk wasting your marketing dollars.  Social media volume is diminishing the impact of your marketing campaign and you need to do something about it.

What are three things you can do?

#1 – You have to listen to the fog in order to understand its message.

Fortunately, this has become more obvious in the last 12 months.  Companies are thinking about social media listening more than ever before. Rather than simply relying on their agency to do this work, I am seeing a greater number of companies bringing talent in house.  It goes deeper than just listening because you need to be sure that you aren’t simply following the volume.   You need to understand that message.   Why?  Because if you are going to penetrate the fog, you need to accurately know what is being said about your brand.  If you don’t listen to understand, you can’t craft a strong message to send into that pea soup.

#2 – You need a laser rifle not a shotgun to penetrate the fog

If the fog is thick, then you need to know where it is thinnest.  Presumably in the places you can see, you will be able to target your message.  This is knowing where your consumer is talking about you.  If you know, with a good degree of accuracy, what they are saying and you can figure out where they are saying it, then you can focus your campaign on those who care about it.  This is the critical component to dealing with the thickening fog.  I once was asked to look at where consumers talked about a variety of illnesses online to help a company better market their products online.  After looking at about 10 different illnesses and where they were most mentioned, I learned that 9 out of 10 of them had the same top 3 websites.  I shared these results with the customer and they replied, “we can’t market there, it is too expensive”.  I was a bit shocked considering almost every one of the illnesses they wanted to know about showed up in these places time and time again.  They didn’t use their laser rifle and went back to the shotgun.

#3 – It is only gonna get thicker, so be creative in how you pull before you push.

This is all about the use case.  You would be surprised how much time people spend trying to pick their tools only to ignore the idea of how to apply those tools.  I keep writing about this only because it isn’t changing enough.  The reason I believe this part is so important is because of the fog.  Each use case gives one the power to dimensionalize their social media for their internal culture.  Each use case is for a particular department to accomplish a particular activity for the business.  If you do not get sophisticated about how you apply your tools in different ways to solve your social media business problems, how are you gonna make your way in this fog that keeps getting thicker.  You need to design ways to know what they are saying that is important to your function along with where they are saying it.

When will the fog clear?

How can it?  The volume will only get larger and the conversation more convoluted.  The reality is we are living in a time where, for the foreseeable future, we need to deal with the social media fog.  And when we are living in a fog or driving in one, it is really hard to see what is ahead.  And in business if you can’t see ahead, then you are doomed to hit a tree if you are not careful.

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About Malcolm De Leo

Malcolm De Leo

Malcolm, Chief Evangelist at NetBase Solutions, Inc.,  is a subject matter expert in the area of applying social media in an effort to build the marketplace for this powerful new consumer data source. Previously, Malcolm was the Global Vice President of Innovation at Daymon Worldwide and prior to that Malcolm spent 10 years at the Clorox Company managing partnerships with technology companies, developing innovation processes and building new innovation infrastructure.

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