Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The damn truth

Chris Reich
Creator/Developer/Speaker at The Physics of Business
This goes to what I tell my clients---stop wasting resources on Facebook and Twitter. Waste of time. Social Media Marketers are selling a myth.

About time somebody spoke the truth!

For a long time, the view has been maintained here that Facebook, Twitter etc are largely utter waste of resources for business. It's intriguing and tempting enough to believe that by sitting on one's derriere one can reach millions of potential customers. The sad fact is that this is never going to happen. The millions of people if not billions online are recreational browsers and not purchasers. By the time an evening of web browsing has gone by, all the sites visited have blurred into one. Prospective customers are not likely to use the internet. Were this the case then Amazon would be making a profit. Amazon has never made a profit in the entire 20 years of its existence.

If online advertising and social media actually worked then why do press, radio and TV adverts still exist and why are there still billboards along the streets? Simply put, online advertising (which is all business usage of social media is about) does not work in any measurable form. There is a weak argument that the more times a customer sees a company's advert, the more likely they are to consider that company during their next purchasing decision.

When it was fresh and new, Social Media was a good way for companies and customers to connect, particularly for after-sales questions. Now, company involvement in Social Media is seen as advertising by consumers and is blotted out just like TV adverts are blotted out (what was the last TV advert you saw?). As Veritasum says, people go to Facebook to catch up with friends and family. They don't go there to go shopping or to connect with businesses.

Twitter is used differently and assuming the company uses Twitter to its full can be a helpful point of contact. It can also be used for fun interactions with people. The following is an example of a useful interaction - a while ago, my Windstream router went out. Contacting Windstream via Twitter was easier than looking up their phone number.
The upshot of that was that the router despite having lights on, had died. A replacement was left on the doorstep which solved the problem. This is an example of good interaction using social media. Another good example was an interaction with Piers Morgan.
Just pure fun and it made both of us grin. 

Using Twitter for anything else is fraught with issues. The messages are so short that more involved technical issues need real emails or phone calls. Used correctly, it's handy for quick customer service but only if the company at the other end uses it to respond. The following is an example of how not to use Twitter for business - the company took almost a month before they even noticed the tweet.
Many businesses are very hit and miss about responses yet if one is going to invest in Twitter as a contact medium, every single message must be responded to. Windstream appears to have made a full commitment. Career Marketplace is just doing it as an afterthought. Walmart quite frequently doesn't respond. Some businesses respond only to the positive tweets and some use auto-responders which can be quite amusing. Sending a tweet along the lines of "I think XYZ corp has GREAT customer service. I've only been waiting at the checkout for 3 months" gets an auto-response of "I'm glad we could be of such good service to you. Please come by and see us again".

As for the other forms of Social Media, I don't have any experience of them and have no particular interest. I have dabbled with Foursquare and had great fun using it to checkin to places that I'm not actually anywhere near. Most people don't even know what Foursquare is. Many don't bother with Twitter. A surprising number of people don't use Facebook. Working at Barnes & Noble, on occasion Facebook was referenced since the company had a Facebook page and a surprising number of customers would announce they didn't use Facebook and thought Facebook was a horrible idea.

Running my old photography business, I tried to drum up interest and hence trade using Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. Certainly I have hundreds of Foursquare followers, including a large number of bots that "like" all of my Foursquare checkins - no matter how ludicrous they are.
With Foursquare, from my comfy swivel chair located in sunny downtown hick-town, USA, it's possible to check in all around the world. For fun for the last few weeks a trans-world checkin is underway. "Radimir" is clearly some kind of bot. Presumably that bot is "liking" checkins in the hope that people will check out "Radimir" and follow the link to the bot's website.

Twitter followers grew to around 14,000 and not a single one was human.  Not a single interaction occurred. Many times, tweets were sent out asking plaintively "Is there anybody human out there. Please respond if you're human". No responses were ever received.

Facebook was a dead loss too. The current Facebook page which is purely used to promote this blog and which carries most Twitter messages also (though not all - there's a glitch somewhere), has a miserable 15 likes. Having said that, no likes are far preferable to fake likes. Previous Facebook pages have had even fewer likes. There is absolutely no interaction with the likers other than those that wanted like exchange or those that are personal friends.

A fair analysis would be that because my website, Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, Pinterest etc had no followers leads me to believe the medium does not work. Certainly, some businesses seem to be phenomenally successful. Amazon is one but they have yet, in 20 years, to make a profit! Chris Reich merely confirms my own point of view and the points of view of many others in my personal and professional lives.

Going back to Chris Reich's assertion that Social Media is a waste of resources, the sheer volume of contact coming in through Social Media means that a vast team needs to be assembled in order to deal with it all. This can backfire badly when a message is missed as Career Marketplace has discovered, after not responding to a tweet for the better part of a month. For Career Marketplace, this has become negative advertising rather than positive. The rule of thumb has to be either to commit fully to Social Media or to leave it well alone. A half-baked implementation ends up negative.

Social Media metrics are a measurement of Social Media success. It's the study of complete garbage. This article explains how fully 60% of internet traffic today is non-human. To put it another way - bots. Although it's possible with effort to take the bots out of traffic figures, is it really worthwhile? Rather than spending resources on Social Media, would it not be better spending it on something that generates a positive return? In business there's a lot of copying - somebody does this and screams what a success it is (well, they could hardly scream what a failure it is) and so everybody else falls into line with clones of the idea.

Here's a neat idea - if the costs of social media were all added up - cost of the staff needed to operate it, cost of their office etc and then deducted from measurable profits caused by the Social Media involvement then presented to the CEO, how many CEOS would consider it money well wasted?

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