I heard it in a meeting again the other day. Another decision maker shrugging off the notion that Facebook could get him a pretty legitimate ROI for his young business. “It’s cool if you’re looking to kill time or stalk people, but I don’t see any point in investing in a fad.” Facebook, a fad. What about Twitter? “Nobody cares what I had for lunch any more than I care about what they had.” Ok, well…at the very least what about having a LinkedIn profile? You know, something you can connect with fellow colleagues and network within the industry, area, nation? “What’s that?”
Social media advocates are used to this; I honestly think we get tired of defending it just about as much as they get tired hearing about it. I say just about, because anything more than that would be a lie. Social media is everywhere we look: online, on-air, on billboards. It’s clearly a battle we’re winning and those out there who still don’t see the value are bombarded with it every day. It’s, as we put it, just blind ignorance or fear at this point that is keeping them from all but submerging themselves into the depths of the deep blue ocean that is the digital marketing plan these days. However, I am a firm believer in not passing judgment until both sides of the story are not only heard but understand. With that in mind, I embarked for a great time trying to figure out what stance the anti-social media crowd had. Here’s a few key points:
There’s no control: Facebook choosing a single layout is like a 6 year old at the ice cream store…it’s not happening. And why should it? Facebook has put everything it has into becoming the #1 social giant, something that wasn’t going to be achieved by staying the same in every way. This has been known to aggravate the usual clientele from time to time, but they always seem to come around. Before we know it the Timeline will be accepted and we’ll be complaining about a new thing that Facebook has pushed us out of our comfort zone for. Brand pages are very similar, except unlike the regular profiles these pages are designed to appeal to the target audience and increase likes, interaction and the overall urge to get off the computer and walk through their respective business doors. To do so can require quite the strategy for layout, convenience, etc. None of this can be achieved every time Facebook decides to switch things up. Unlike a regular website where you have the full power to switch things up to your heart’s content (and reasonable boundaries), Facebook can take all that away with a single update. It is because of this many are cautious to add Facebook to the strategy.
There’s Market Over-Saturation: Back when social media really caught on, the cream of the crop was MySpace, Facebook & Twitter. That’s it. Each brought a different tangible to the game: MySpace was all about personalization, Facebook was all about connecting and Twitter was all about informing. Now there’s so many different things that can be accomplished and multiple sites that can accomplish them. It’s almost as if every single major player in the digital world got it in their mindset that the only way to be successful is to launch a social network. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr. Google has tried, and tried again. Apple has Ping, oh and MySpace is still around with Justin Timberlake bringing it back. This makes it difficult to pick an option, each has a slightly different audience but huge overlap and it’s almost pointless to try and maintain all of them…you’d run out of content and be spending so much time trying to change that, you’d all but forget you still have a business to run.
Government Involvement: Social media has brought us many things: the ability to connect, inform, network and advertise. Most importantly, it’s given us the opportunity to speak out. We’ve seen what Facebook can do in Egypt, London and New York (just to name a few). Much like the internet itself, social media is VERY loosely regulated, and in many ways rightfully so. However, you’re kidding yourself if you think it’s going to continue this way. Much like WikiLeaks, and online piracy before it, social media will inevitably meet the firm hand of government intervention. We can only hope the hands holding the reigns are good and honest with the best intentions. To the business owner, this can be a very risky overview.
Overall, to say social media is still in the stage of being a fad is to deny the future of our culture. Beanie Babies, Pokémon and slap bracelets were a fad. Having the capability to reach out to people around the world with a thing as simple as a tweet is not. The question for any business should not be whether to utilize this opportunity, but how to go about doing so effectively. To those of us out there campaigning for social media to become an accepted form of marketing, it’s easy to understand the caution flags when everything is put into perspective. Yet, much like Facebook, the kid in the ice cream store taking 20 minutes to choose a flavor, then changing it, we don’t have any choice but to go with it. You’re better off playing the game then sitting on the sidelines wondering why nobody is coming to your ice cream shop to check out your flavors.