Why Social Media May Not Be Right For You

I was recently asked whether, if I had to make the choice, would I choose to work in just SEO or social media. Without any hesitation I answered SEO. In the current climate it’s obviously more accountable and seems a more obvious choice to me for brands looking to make reduced marketing budgets go further. (Although the Financial Times makes a very good argument that brands should actually invest in marketing during a recession rather than reduce spend). Luckily I don’t have to make a choice but I think it highlights something that we in the digital marketing industry are often guilty of – assuming that what works for us will work for everyone.

We’ve all seen it – the examples of how small businesses should be using Twitter or how brands should be spending hours scouring social networks to pick up on any sort of negative comment. Whilst I actually often agree with these sorts of sentiments I think that in the extreme they can be dangerous as they suggest that what works for one brand will work for all of them.

To give you an example of what I mean let me tell you about something that Pepsi did recently. In a rather bizarre campaign, that some are excusing because it marks their first foray into the realm of social media marketing (something I find hard to believe of a brand of its size & target audience), they sent three packages to 25 select bloggers.

The packages were delivered over the course of an hour: the first 2 contained cans with logos that had been used in the past, whilst the final one contained the latest design. Presumably the idea was to get people talking about the new logo but it didn’t go quite as planned.

Old Pepsi bottles

One of the bloggers involved detailed three reasons why he thought the campaign didn’t quite work:

  • Apparently sending stuff to bloggers is sooooo 2006.
  • He felt that they should have looked to reach out to brand evangelists rather than ‘influencers’
  • Rather than throwing money at the campaign (which they obviously did as the cans were delivered by courier!) they should spend time in building relationships.

Now I appreciate that these suggestions, which in many ways make a lot of sense, are aimed at one particular campaign and whilst I kind of agree with them in some ways I think they also highlight how for some brands social media simply won’t be right (I hasten to add I don’t think that’s the case for Pepsi).

  • Sending stuff to bloggers might not be a new idea but it can still work. It’s a PR staple and in the event of a lack of a great creative hook (which I’ll come back to later) is one of the best ways of getting people to talk about a product. If you ask me Pepsi’s mistake wasn’t sending product to bloggers it was choosing what appear to be very niche bloggers – surely they should be thinking big.
  • There’s no doubt that there are undoubtedly people who love Pepsi and with the right message Pepsi should undoubtedly be contacting them. But if, again, you lack a creative message, or if your product simply isn’t the type to elicit evangelism (what we would define as the difference between a cultural and non-cultural brand) then trying to get people with a ready made audience to discuss your product will be easier than trying to elicit a fervour that simply isn’t there
  • For many brands the rewards available from social media simply don’t warrant the investment of thousands, hundreds or even tens of man-hours. In these instances having a clearly defined budget & ROI for a campaign often make more sense than trying to build these relationships.

Now for me Pepsi is a cultural brand, and one that should be able to utilise social media to great effect. Its real mistake seems to have been a lack of amazing creative which would really get their evangelists talking: you’ve got a new logo? Wow. Someone pass the Red Bull Cola – I’m struggling to stay awake. You’ve built something really cool, that I can really relate to, and which I can share online? Awesome. Where do I sign up?

However for those brands which lack Pepsi’s inherent cachet, those non-cultural brands again, this is going to be a lot harder and this is when social media simply might not be the right channel to take. And if it is, it’s likely to be with a campaign much like the one described (though done much better of course) where you simply treat social media like any other media channel (though one with new rules) and work to build online PR. And if that means sending someone your product, hey, it works.

Just make sure the recipient is going to be in when you do.

Ciarán is the SEO & Social Media Director for British integrated online marketing agency Altogether Digital. He joined Altogether after working in online marketing for 7 years at two of the UK’s biggest publishing companies in roles covering everything from branding to online PR to, obviously, search. The Let’s Get Social column appears Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social


About The Author: is the Head of Digital for Mindshare Ireland, as well as holding a global role for the media agency as Director, Emerging Media. At Mindshare he works with both local & multinational clients, helping them to integrate on & offline, and to utilise search, social, mobile & video in their broader marketing mix.

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