Will Marketing Kill Social Media?

Anyone reading this post is likely to be someone who spends some, if not all, of his or her time at work trying to make use of social media to market products & brands. We spend hours trying to maximize the benefit for our employers or clients from sites such as Facebook, YouTube & Twitter as well as the millions of blogs that litter the web. And yet I’ve started to wonder whether these very activities might not result in exactly the opposite result to the one we’re hoping for.

A recent article about viral video showed that, contrary to what those who promote the game changing nature of user generated content would have us believe, the most popular content is still that made by professionals. Of the 18 videos that Visible Measures suggest have received more than 100 million views, 14 (or 17 depending on your point of view) were professionally produced. This shouldn’t necessarily surprise us, but it is worth noting as we look at what people are actually using social media for, and what it means for marketers.

So why should it matter if the videos that people are watching on YouTube and the like aren’t actually user generated? Well, with analysts suggesting that YouTube loses Google half a billion, yes, half a billion dollars a year (though others have their doubts), it means that the people marketing those videos (as professional content tends to be marketed by professionals) are responsible for Google burning $500 million a year so that people can watch TV clips, pop videos & movie trailers. And some think that this might mean that Google will have to stop allowing the user generated content that made YouTube what it is today.

What is certain is that all the major social network sites are struggling to find serious business models and will have to do something about this at some point. And until they do they’ll need to hang-on to the users that they have, even if some think they can’t afford to take on any more. And that’s why it will be so important for them not to allow their current users to be alienated by bad marketing & spam.

I’m guessing that Rupert Murdoch certainly wishes that he could turn back the clock to the days before people started abandoning MySpace in droves: yes the rise of Facebook has had something to do with this but so did, I’d suggest, the rise of spam on the original major social network (Friendster doesn’t count). In the recent figures for his News Corp company, the internet division’s results were just as disappointing as most of the others. In fact, so bad were the figures, that Murdoch has suggested that he will soon start charging for content on all of his web properties.

So what does all of this mean for other social media sites, or for us as marketers? It means that anyone looking to buy Twitter might want to organize lunch with Google CEO Eric Schmidt & News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch before they do, and that we need to make sure that we take as much care as possible not to alienate the consumers we’re trying to talk to lest we kill the golden goose 2.0.

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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  • Larry Chandler

    This seems somewhat meaningless. If user-generated content is what made YouTube the success it is, why would Google drop it? It has to figure out how to make money with it, perhaps offering better quality video, fewer ads for paid submissions. MySpace declined when Facebook arrived because MySpace assumed the only ones who used it were kids. Facebook started out for college students and when the opened it up to others, adults used it.

    Twitter will have to find a way to make money on it. But Twitter can turn into a very successful tool with the use of relevant links. It may be possible to have a premium account that allows links and the basic level does not. People will pay for the ability to link.

    Nothing will “kill” social media. Social media will evolve into one of several marketing tools. It will be an appropriate tool for some, just as radio still attracts advertisers, TV still does. Social media will be one tool among many for use where appropriate.

  • http://www.altogetherdigital.com Ciarán Norris

    Meaningless? I don’t think so (but then I wouldn’t, would I?) Challenging and perhaps totally wrong? Quite possibly. But I think that there’s a danger that we all simply assume that people will work out how to make money from these sort of sites and that therefore they will continue to be around for ever.

    You say that Google has to make money out of YouTube? Undoubtedly – but it simply isn’t and UGC is driving an absolutely shocking CPM. You say that MySpace declined when Facebook became popular with adults? Possibly, but at least Murdoch made his money back with one single Google deal – Facebook just took on all this extra traffic with no idea of how to monetise it.

    Do I actually think that these sites are all suddenly going to shut down, or even that social media is nothing more than Facebook, MySpace & Twitter? No. But with people like Murdoch scrabbling round for a business model for old media, with its expensive journalists & offices, one has to wonder how much longer the VCs and start-ups will be able to put off finding a business model for their networks with their expensive running costs.

    And yes, radio & TV still attract advertisers – but less & less, and not to a level where they can invest in the way that they used to be able to – the cancellation of the last serious arts programme on mainstream UK TV this week could well be the canary in the mine for all media.

  • http://www.jexanalytics.com.au jexley

    I think that anything starting out as something reasonably pure and for-the-people is going to eventually get ruined by those lusting after money.

    Thankfully, I believe we’re of an age that will always be able to think up something new. MySpace started crapping out and Facebook dominates. YouTube hits the skids and something else’ll be around quicksmart, I’d put money on it.

  • http://www.altogetherdigital.com Ciarán Norris

    “something else’ll be around quicksmart, I’d put money on it.”

    Not if you want to make money I wouldn’t!



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