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.