Will Thinking Beyond Social, Ruin Social

by · May 13, 201326 comments

The thematic meme running through the social marketing world of late is that we’re about to move beyond social media marketing as a primary practice to thinking more broadly about our marketing and our business. Social is part of a greater whole and social-only thinking won’t get you very far for much longer.

Part of this is driven by the social consultants threatened by those of lesser breadth of experience. Part of it is the reality that the industry is maturing. Social is now part of marketing. Marketing is almost impossible today without social.

But will this assumption that social is just part of what we do turn social into something we forget about?

I can attest that immersing yourself in a vertical or business like, say, online retail, means you start thinking about driving sales, moving the needles on the top- or bottom-line and looking for partnerships and revenue streams and cost savings. You start looking at the resources you’re pouring into social and expecting an immediate financial return for those. Sometimes social is about more than (or other than) direct revenue.

You’ll start expecting an immediate financial return for social

For many businesses, that means they’ll either go through the motions of social without really, genuinely investing the time and energy or they’ll forego social altogether and take the safe, proven routes of search engine marketing, ad spend and other acquisition and sales strategies.

It is true that social needs to be a part of greater thinking about business and marketing if you want to have a mature, optimal approach to contributing to your business’s success. But in doing so, I worry that the “More, Now!” mentality of today’s business will dictate we just forget about being social in lieu of selling more stuff.

What do you think?

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://twitter.com/socialzeme socialzeme

    As you said, Social Media has reach a point of maturity and that’s why people who wants to create a company should decide if they want to become a social company or not. Being social means a different behavior and a different mind-set inside the company. If we do not understand it, bad thing for the company and for us.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agree as with the others above. But even if companies understand the non-revenue nature of some social success, if the bottom line is the ultimate metric, social could be forced into being measured by numbers it isn’t designed to produce.

      • JaynaLocke

        I would love to hear your take on the impact of social business-ification on small business, Jason. This is an awesome topic, and you’ve launched a super interesting discussion. It seems to me that most businesses are getting their arms around social, but when you start talking about ROI, many throw their hands up in despair, especially if they haven’t got the resources in place to measure their results. Is there an app for that? Heh heh. But seriously, it all needs to get easier. Selling more crap isn’t the answer to justifying social, but if you can improve your social results and sell more flowers from your local florist shop, or bring more people in the door of your salon, you’ve got ROI. Small businesses and large businesses alike need to be able to say: this is what we did, and this is how it paid off. There was a comprehensive post on the topic social media measurement on Search Engine Watch in February (http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2249515/Social-Media-ROI-14-Formulas-to-Measure-Social-Media-Benefits) but this stuff is way beyond the capabilities of the business owner who is the CEO, social media strategist and sales manager all in one.

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Yep … small business brings the challenges of scalability and cost into play in much more amplified ways. If one person is doing all the work — business, front-end, back-end, retail, distribution, inventory, marketing and the like, social is one of those things that is easy to remove from the to-do list, especially when it takes time and effort to even set up your measurement systems. But when a small business takes some cursory steps to at least be present, they typically see the results anecdotally. If the small business owner has interest in social, they typically make it work for them. If they don’t. They don’t. And either is acceptable. I just worry how long it will be before one way isn’t going to work.

  • http://indispensablemarketing.com/ Patrick McFadden

    Though the eyes of a marketer: If your goal is growth, marketing is all that matters—and marketing is everything you do or say that communicates to your prospects, followers, fans and customers that you’ve solved their problem.

    In this connection economy or web 2.0 world, bilateral intimacy—engagement is the asset. The ability to have a direct connection to communicate to your customers is the best marketing tool ever. I guess I have always seen it and thought about it more broadly concerning marketing and business.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agree Patrick, but “engagement” doesn’t mean crap to a board of directors that focused on 30% year over year growth so they can give their investors high returns. As social matures into a facet of business, it’s going to have to be about business. I worry that even the passionate social folks are going to have to prove out financial metrics to the detriment of engagement ones. Fair?

      • http://indispensablemarketing.com/ Patrick McFadden

        That’s it Jason. Growth will not continue unless they go where the attention is. If engagement is what it takes for a business to grow in 2016, 2017 and beyond that’s what they will do. They want 30% and the CEO needs the attention of the consumer to do it.

        If they measure billboards by how many people drive by the sign, (which is ridiculous) then I’m sure we can measure how many people see, hear, refer, and like brands. Plus have a more defined metric.

  • http://inthekisser.me/ Erica Ayotte

    So will brands ruin social? Only if they’re too much in love with the idea of brand from the inside out, instead of the other way around. I think that humans will continue to seek out authenticity and social media was born largely out of the desire to connect earnestly. In many ways, I think social media has helped us achieve that both as individuals and as brands. But as social media matures, people and brands learn how to manipulate both the technology and the social behaviors that inform those technologies (and vice versa). Authenticity, in a way, is becoming a performance. The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing at all, and as soon as it does, it begins to lose its power. To some it may seem like a fine line to tread—the need to drive business results versus the ability to maintain (entertain?) an audience. But I believe that if the brand has truly defined itself and its customer base (and has a very sensitive antennae to the needs and wants of their customers) those intersection points will be very easy to spot. It’s both art and science and will continue to evolve.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Don’t disagree with you Erica, but I think the reality of brands being authentic, etc., tends to drift by the wayside once they have a CEO or CFO saying, “So what’s our revenue from social, year over year?” When the bottom line is the bottom line — even if social isn’t primarily framed as a monetization technique — even the social people are going to have to sell more crap.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michele.price Michele Price

    Great question Jason. This asks us to uncover where are the mindset gaps with internal teams. Is their current state of thinking, aligning their business objectives with their ability to be social? What is the cost of not aligning in thought, practice and execution, the social aspects of what customers want from brands today? Great discussion over bourbon.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Amen to that, Michelle. It’s going to be interested to see how companies evolve and who loses hold on social done well.

  • http://twitter.com/OneJillian Jillian. Not Jill.

    I think you are exactly right. I am ultra interested in how social is going to be blended in even more seamlessly into the full marketing arsenal. I think that transition from novelty to necessity is coming soon and the results of truly integrated campaigns are going to start filtering out in the next year or two. The marketing books have already started to shift from tactics to strategy and this is such a breath of fresh air to me. I’m tired of leaning how to use twitter. I now want to learn how to tap into the vein of emotional triggers and KEEP THAT CONNECTION stable. Meaning – let’s stop teaching the art of vampires and start teaching the skill of nursing.

    (not even attempting line breaks this time. it’s a lost cause with me & these comment plugins)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      LOVE that analogy, Jillian! Thank you!

      • http://twitter.com/OneJillian Jillian. Not Jill.

        If you use it, I get some credit! :)
        But on a more serious note, that is the “magic” brands are looking for but can’t quantify or mechanize.

    • http://indispensablemarketing.com/ Patrick McFadden

      Hey Jillian,

      Do you currently use twitter.com/search to listen into conversations around your brand and passion? This tool is very powerful for owning the emotional equity. I highly recommend you check it out.

      • http://twitter.com/OneJillian Jillian. Not Jill.

        Twitter search is a fabulous tool for beginning relationships, but you can’t get by with a few erratic tweets per day on the latest hot topic. Brands have to constantly be pruning and tending the garden of their social relationships, building a place for brand ambassadors the really fanatic fans, to thrive and infect the larger community on your behalf. Wow, I sound like a Social Media hippie – but the truth is the truth.

        • http://www.facebook.com/michele.price Michele Price

          hahhaha I used a farming analogy 5 years ago giving a presentation in front of a business group, sharing social media. They loved it and got it. Besides we are Texas ;). Yet funny how people are becoming more conscious of farming, our food source and that makes it easier to use as an example.

          hahahah soical media hippie, love it ( only about 25 years too young, snort)

          • http://twitter.com/OneJillian Jillian. Not Jill.

            I have found i am a metaphor/analogy junkie. And I need help!!!

        • http://indispensablemarketing.com/ Patrick McFadden

          You don’t sound like a hippie. It all goes to to the business side of things. I use twitter search to engage in meaningful conversation where it leads them back to “My stage” (others call it their home base) a digital property I own and control. This is where my loyal listeners, fans, and readers come together. It’s where I direct all internet traffic to, because this is the place where I can best sell your ideas, services or products. I control the microphone and determine who has backstage access.

          • http://twitter.com/OneJillian Jillian. Not Jill.

            [[[[metaphor alert]]]]
            I suppose, as a person, I am aware and sensitive to the fact that people don’t want to go visiting every shop in a strip mall. They want to go wander through the mall itself. And where twitter is the mall, your one singular stage is a store in a strip mall. And people will go to perhaps one or two, but they will, by and large, prefer to wander through the mall.

            I understand your urge to pull people out of the mall, which serves a LOT of consumption needs for the person, to your singular store in the strip mall, which serves just one consumption need for the person. I also understand that, having built your own loyal customer base, you have brought a rich sense of community to your store.

            But the issue comes in, when we are advising every brand, everywhere, to make sure to have people spend lots of gas money and travel time going to each individual little store in the strip mall. Do you see where that disconnect is? As a brand, you have to know where your audience thrives, and provide THAT as the place where they find and gravitate toward you.

            Even at the mall, the Anchor stores get LOTS of foot traffic, LOTS of sales, and dominate the shopping experience for people. They go to mall FOR the anchor store, and many will spend their entire shopping trip at that anchor store.

            I’m rambling now but I hope I’m being clear nonetheless. I see all the time that brands lose sight of the whole point of social: the two way relationship with people. People expect for the relationship to include them, rather than herd them about like commodities. Yes, bring people to your store, but also go out and see them. Making the relationship happen at your home-base, or not at all makes the relationship feel one-way.

  • Dara Khajavi

    I completely agree with you. Social and marketing go hand and hand. Social media reemphasize marketing efforts. Marketing reemphasize social media. The challenge brand will face is trying to keep up with the ever changing social media scene.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed, Dara. Thanks for chiming in!

  • http://twitter.com/dave_link Dave Link

    Social activities have always simply been an extension of traditional marketing campaigns and departments. The real shock to the system, so to speak, was the speed with which consumers adopted platforms like Facebook and Twitter as mediums to explore purchasing options. Now that a large swath of the industry has adapted to the social customer the real question because what you want to do WITH your social branch of marketing? Are you looking to build engagement and brand affinity? Product development through crowd sourcing? Simple customer service? Social will never truly go away or be passed over, I believe it will simply be molded differently by each company depending on the desired purpose and the business’ willingness to participate in varying levels of transparency.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great points, Dave. I just want to make sure even the social teams know that falling into “business” as usual may hurt their efforts, regardless of their focus.

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