Before Augie Ray became a great thought leader and customer experience expert, he was a leader in social media marketing and customer experience insights for brands like American Express and Prudential. Frustrated with marketing’s persistent belief in social media as an effective marketing tool while the evidence proves otherwise, in a 2014 blog post he called Upton Sinclair to understand why: “It’s difficult to get a man to do this to bring something to understand when his salary depends on him not understanding it. “
Marketers are prejudiced. Strength. Sinclair’s aphorism and Augie’s appreciation for social media marketing still hold true today. Something has to change in 2021.
For various reasons, my marketing company hardly offers any social media services anymore. That decision was well supported by recent research: I’m working on a book that deals with social media marketing, so over the past year I’ve sifted through more than my share of social media marketing data.
Julia Roth, director of marketing and communications at the University of Colorado Law School, and I collected and analyzed over 50 reports and studies published on social media marketing and interviewed people who were involved in some of the case studies we discovered . We also tried to find updates on each of the studies cited in Augie Ray’s previously cited post, “What If Everything You Know About Social Media Marketing Is Wrong.
We discovered four major impacts on social media marketing by 2021.
1. Marketers don’t do data that well (yet)
You’ve probably heard of this before: According to the 2020 Duke / Deloitte / American Marketing Association CMO survey, 67% of senior marketers can’t quantify the impact of their social media marketing. This percentage rises up to 77% in some B2B sectors.
At the same time, marketers plan to increase their social media marketing spend. It’s a huge breakup.
2. Let’s face it – organic social media marketing rarely works
Avinash Kaushik, one of the most respected thought leaders in analytics and online practice, urges brands to rush to end organic social media marketing. “End all organic social media activity in your company,” he writes. “All of it.”
Let me point out a study that springs out of my own research. “The Value of a Facebook Fan: Does ‘Like’ Influence Consumer Behavior?” (A 2017 study published in the Journal of Marketing Research) found strong evidence that consumers like brands they already own Have a preference on social media, and that “just” liking “a brand doesn’t have a positive initial effect on consumer attitudes or purchases.”
Social media engagement is a consequence, not a cause, of brand affinity. Indeed, two meta-analyzes suggest that “if anything, its effect is adverse”.
3. To build online social groups, unlearn marketing
Rob Siefker, senior director of customer loyalty at Zappos, told me that when hiring customer service professionals to manage his company’s social media accounts, he doesn’t look for talent with social media experience – because “everyone knows how to uses social media ”. Instead, he is looking for people who know what it looks like to “go beyond that, because how can you give it if you don’t know it”?
Community builder and researcher Nichole Kelly, who built a social community of over a million people for a debt relief organization, told me that she had spent a career asking and training people to “unlearn marketing” for online -Building communities.
Marketers are driven by conversions. Social groups are driven by the community. Knowing the difference is crucial (more on this in the next).
4. Move social media out of marketing and into customer care
Marketers have to come to terms with a harsh reality: The most thriving social media communities with a marketing bias are typically built within three narrow contexts.
Customer care-oriented social media activities, on the other hand, thrive in all sorts of places. The use of social media in customer care is in contrast to social media marketing, as it is about community and not conversion.
It is crucial that community building is not a marketing function. The training and conditioning of marketers forces us into promotions, conversions, and sales funnel thinking, and we build the technical skills to be effective in doing so. Customer care requires something completely different, and organizations that have successfully used social media in their customer care functions know that.
McKenzie Eakin has built Xbox’s record breaking and groundbreaking customer service team, The Elite Tweet Fleet, and a 1,000-member Ambassador chat program comprised of Xbox users who provide peer-to-peer support.
She told me that when the project started, she didn’t even have a Twitter account and didn’t hire any social media experts. Instead, she looked for people with a passion for Xbox so they could have a deeper understanding of their users’ problems. The members of the team were therefore passionate about solving users’ problems, which resulted in authenticity on the Internet.
A powerful case study shows how British Telecom, the UK’s largest broadband, landline and wireless operator, poured resources into its social media customer service channels and cut the cost of its customer service by the equivalent of $ 2.6 million a year.
As marketers, our job for 2021 should be to break our biases and shift social media investments into customer care.
Consider two studies: A SproutSocial content marketing report claims a 146% increase in social messages that require brand responses, but brands’ response rate is actually decreasing over the same period (they only respond to 1 in 10 messages on average) and A Smartinsights report finds that 80% of businesses say they have exceptional social media customer service, but only 8% of their customers agree.
Social media is a valuable tool for companies looking to use it in their customer care functions as the social spirit is geared towards flat and collaborative interaction, not in a seller / marketer / customer relationship.
* * *
Market research and digital marketing agency Good Growth spent a few months in 2017 researching social media marketing for their fourth annual digital marketing growth book. Much of our research has crossed with its researchers’; They concluded that “investing in social media” [marketing] continues to be a triumph of hope over solid evidence of commercial return … There remains a lack of clarity as to the commercial return of the investment. “
Marketer, let’s raise a glass together and say “cheers”: goodbye to hopeful thinking and hello to clarity.
This article contains excerpts from a longer, five blog post series on the topic of social media marketing in 2021. Read them all here.
More resources on social media marketing
How effective is your brand on social media? Here’s how you can measure that
Why people follow brands on social media (and no longer follow)
How to Maximize Social Media Marketing as a B2B Company