Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Is Social Media Marketing being done at all?

Coders should not try to be marketers. They are not Steve Jobs!

Brands spent a dime collecting fans on Facebook. Now they are spending more money on "engaging" them. But is it helping the brand?

I did two sets of qualitative studies to understand brand communication participation on Facebook. One was approximately an year back and the other concluded last month and both lead to similar results. Surprisingly most of the respondents I interviewed could NOT remember even five Facebook pages they had "liked". But yes they did remember they had liked "a couple" of pages on Facebook. I am here restricting my discussion to Facebook and Facebook pages in particular. Some of my propositions after my study were
  • Brand Communities or brand fan pages on internet are not affecting brand awareness for the un-involved consumer.
  • Brand communities are not impacting brand loyalty to the un-involved consumers.
  • Brand communities are not impacting purchase intentions of the un-involved consumers.

The Reasons

Brand fan pages are impacting which set of consumers? They are helping those who are already involved with your brand. Fans of Eminem, Harley Davidson or Manchester United are already involved with the brands. They don't need to be pushed to join or engage with the brand.
Facebook does provide a perfect platform. But it provides a democratic platform for brands. Consumer volition is primary. This is not T.V. or a retail outlet. 
I might have an answer. There are too many software companies with little experience in marketing trying to be "Marketers". They are essentially a bunch of coders trying to conjure things like engagement, branding etc. How can they ever make the cut?

Brand Community & Culture

The concept of brand communities started as communities of consumers, by consumers. Advertising your Facebook page is like deliberately pushing something, which is essentially social in nature down the throats of consumers.
How can consumers fake it? They cannot!
The brands that manage to climb up the ladder are already a part of culture. Take the case of Oreo. You can't make your brand a cultural resource by blatantly talking about it on your brand community. 
I don't know the exact answer, but a deeper understanding of the culture around the brand might have an answer. Marketers are no longer cultural authorities. That was the modern branding paradigm and belonged to the 1950s and 60s. Culture will evolve by allowing people to participate. Facebook pages don't allow users to participate. Their role is restricted to commenting, liking and sharing. Techies especially the guys at Facebook did not build a page that would look into this aspect. I don't want to undermine their contribution. It is beyond measure. But when it comes to marketing, we probably need to rethink.