Why Marketers Get Social Media Wrong

Most understand social, but lack a key element to success

by Jason Falls |

Most marketers get social media wrong. Especially those that have been around the block a few times and know a thing or two about marketing. 

It’s not that they don’t understand what social media is about. It’s not that they don’t “get” social. They all have the Facebooks and the Tweeters and they post and follow and like and +1. Many seem to be finally understanding that the content you provide on social channels needs to be audience centric rather than brand centric. In fact, there’s not a lot you need to explain to today’s marketers about social media anymore.

But they still get it wrong.

Why? Because they don’t understand why the audience is there.

Think about it this way: You know ranking well in search, or even purchasing search engine ads, will work in driving traffic to your website. Why? Because the audience for search engine results is actively looking for an answer to a problem. If your organic or paid search engine result seems to answer that problem, they’ll click. If you’ve done a good job of providing that answer, they’ll convert.

A searcher is in buying mode. They are actively seeking the solution you provide. They are searching.

Now think about the social audience. They aren’t looking for an answer to a problem. They aren’t searching. They aren’t even hoping to encounter a brand or company in their time spent on whatever social network they’re on.

The social media audience is there to be social … with friends, family or other like-minded people. They are not in buying mode. They are not seeking the solution you provide. 

Why do you go to Facebook? I always joke that if you’re over 40 you’re there to see pictures of your kids or grandkids. If you’re under 40 you’re there to stalk your ex. But the joke isn’t far from true. You’re there to interact with people.

You aren’t there to be persuaded to download a white paper, sign up for an email newsletter or buy a thingamabob. 

Being present in social media for brands is counter-intuitive because the audience is not there to shop or buy. They don’t naturally want to engage with you. This doesn’t mean they won’t. It doesn’t mean you can’t ultimately convert them to be customers. But it’s not going to happen at the speed or success rate of a search engine ad or even a traditional media spend.

The social brand is one that nurtures relationships with its current customers, develops new ones with prospective customers and is glad for conversions whenever they may occur.

The social brand is one that nurtures relationships with its current customers, develops new ones with prospective customers and is glad for conversions whenever they may occur. 

The social brand is one that knows it cannot tie monthly, quarterly or annual revenue goals to its activity that are on par with other channels because the audience need, expectation and motivation is different.

The social brand is one that participates because it knows that not doing so is turning a cold shoulder to the very people it hopes to drive to purchase.

Understanding why the audience is participating on these networks and in this channel is fundamental to how you measure it, compare it to other channels and view success with it. 

So how do you compare social to traditional channels? To SEO or SEM? If you’re trying to draw and Apples-to-Apples comparison there, you may want to rethink things.

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls 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 Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).