Disillusionment with social media: The Realm of the disappointed hunter
Disillusionment with social media. Several recent studies claim that social media is a poor activation vector. The diminishing reach of Facebook pages is the last nail in the coffin. That is all a fuss about nothing, that everyone went crazy over. But actually, it’s just past its time. You just need to read my piece from over 2 years ago, already talking of this ‘disillusionment’, to see that today’s talk is only hindsight….We have to ask the question whether this is a profound misunderstanding, far deeper than mere tactical errors.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA – IS DEAD , LONG LIVE THE SOCIAL NETWORKS
In truth, the main bulk of marketing continues to be based on a strictly advertising mode of thinking. For some, social networks are simply ‘new media’, that just like ‘good old traditional’ media, would help miraculously activate their customers. But there’s no magic solution. During the gold-rushes, only the sellers of shovels got rich.
It is normal that social media networks are poor media, because they are not ‘media’. These are rather crowds or societies, where people do things together with a very special set of rules. I have fought for a long time against the term “social media” – considering it inappropriate. In the end, I just had to wait.
There is no social media. There are media and there are social networks. They are completely different things. Social networks belong to the people who inhabit them. They develop their own habits and do their own business amongst themselves, regardless of any outside attempt at commercial exploitation. The big question has always been whether to be friends with a brand makes any sense. We now know that no, we are not “friends” with a brand. We are “customers.” This is useful, because everyone knows what this is how it is. The truth is that your customers populate social networks. The question is: Do you want to have a customer relationship with them in these places?
THE FABLE OF THE HUNTER AND THE BREEDER
For a long time, studies have told us that people do not like advertising in social networks, or an excessive presence of brands. In a media channel, we are not at home and it is accepted that there may hawkers. On a social network, you’re in a club of (self-)selected people and they don’t like intruders. Internet is people.
Of course, nobody lives on fresh air alone, and network operators (with Facebook in mind) choose to sell advertising in their business model. Herein lies the problem. Personally, I find it healthier that fan pages are paying for brands, since I prefer revenue models calibrated by the value of uses (and users). By default, this creates a gap for those who tolerate a certain dose of advertising, and advertisers who take the networks for ‘media’, which they are not.
Moreover Zuckerberg is smart. The brands came to Facebook generating their profiles. Then, Facebook created pages for them with all the bells and whistles. Nevertheless, their pages were populated and they developed relationships. Now, with the reduction of the natural reach, they must pay to continue to do so. The big questions are should brands leave and abandon their hard-earned loyal customers on Facebook, and will they follow you elsewhere?
In fact I was wrong: Facebook will make fan pages paying. Social networks are not media. These are playgrounds for customer relationships. You have the choice to play or not, and even to advocate your own gaming system taking into account the customs and traditions in place. Facebook is a breeding ground, not a hunting reserve.
WILL BUZZ FEED THE COWS?
However, you’ll always find case studies that show it’s possible to acquire customers on social networks. Great stories, perfectly true, speaking of buzz and virality, record sales at the end of intelligent and masterful operations on the networks. The truth is that they are not reproducible. They are totally context-dependent, both in terms of reputation, customer base and mobilisation. Above all, they talk about values and something shared between the brand and its customers. A mode of celebration. What would you really celebrate with your customers, that they would recognize as such?
The questions put to brands by social networks are “What do I share with my clients? What we can say that is really worthwhile?”.
The real question is what will my customers remember about what I sell them, and what is strong enough for them to speak about it themselves?
Obviously I’m talking about the buzz. I have already written about this and the fact that I hate purely tactical campaigns, which are sometimes at odds with the brand itself. I’m more of a promoter of the concept of pollination that refers to a sustainable sharing of elements of brand value. I’m in favour of brands being shared, that customers are part of the marketing mix and that this is created over time, at the heart of the relationship and the daily contact. All this implies developing the experience, if not becoming one and that is another debate.
What I remember from recent debate is that the hunt is exciting and the farming is boring. Hunters are disappointed. They thought they had a new playground and it turns out not to be the case. Say rather that the game is wayward. They find themselves returning to hunt on old ground. The hope of new horizons has disappointed. There is the disillusionment. This is not the case of farmers, even if the customer relationship is an obscure one, less adventurous, not featuring glorious campaigns and prestigious winners. That is also one of the elements of the case.
Meanwhile, cows that are treated well and raised with love make for a tastier and more expensive meat. Customers are certainly not calves, but well-treated customers, the least one could expect, can lead to acquisition costs that make conversation. Well-treating your customers, is to at least maintain, if not develop your margins. You won’t cease to have customers. They inhabit social networks. What would you do?
Post by Alexis MONS, illustration via Dynamosquito
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