The Social Media Debates: Round 3

Posted on February 4, 2008
Filed Under Marketing 2.0 |

After getting “owned” in Round 1 of The Social Media Debates, Alisa Leonard apparently took some time off from her Twitter activities to stage a better fight in Round 2 of our debate. Unfortunately, she’s still a lightweight trying to beat a heavyweight.

On a macro level, Drama’s premise of his “are we going to talk or fuck?” approach to marketing is that he doesn’t buy the value of relationship marketing.

Alisa starts off by making an invalid inference. Like a carpenter, I believe marketers have a variety of tools to get the job done and getting the job done requires using the right tool. If you can’t get the job done using the tools at your disposal, you are useless as a carpenter. So to correct Alisa, “On a macro level, Drama’s premise of his ‘are we going to talk or fuck?’ approach to marketing is that he understands a desired outcome has to be attainable using a specific technique or the technique itself is flawed.”

Drama thinks building a relationship by engaging in dialogue with consumers online is a waste of time, and that if your target isn’t ready to hop in the sack after two drinks, then its time to move the hell on. But we’re into repeat business– not one night stands.

Again, Alisa completely miscategorizes my argument. As I stated in Round 1, “In theory, the ‘conversation’ and the ’selling’ are not necessarily opposed to one another. If a marketer can ‘engage’ in a ‘conversation’ that clearly has the potential to achieve a tangible objective that is of value (i.e. a sale), then the conversation might be worthwhile.”

The conversation costs money. If the outcome of the conversation earns more money than the cost of the conversation, then you have a marketing strategy that works. If the conversation costs more money than the outcome, then you have a marketing strategy that doesn’t. It’s that simple. How hard is this to understand? Apparently for people caught in a giant tag cloud, it’s quite difficult.

Unfortunately for Alisa, the quantitative data thus far indicates that, for the vast majority of companies trying to engage in social media marketing, the conversation has not been profitable. In the world of social networks, for instance, after Google’s disappointing earnings that saw the company losing money to Rupert Murdoch on its ad deal with MySpace, Google co-founder Sergey Brin admitted “I don’t think we have the killer best way to advertise and monetize social networks yet.” As such, it’s quite presumptive to talk about “repeat business” when you are having enough trouble getting your first sale. Never put the carriage before the horse.

Of course, I’ve been predicting this outcome for some time and have provided logical rationales for why social networks may never be as important to marketers as proponents think.

Alisa provides her own rationales in the form of a number of slides from a report published by an agency named 22squared. This report shows the benefits of “relationship marketing.” Of course, a little research shows that 22squared sells clients on an approach called “Friendship Marketing.” Thus, it’s no surprise that they’ve put together a “report” playing up the wonderful things that friendship can bring brands. They’re in the friendship business, after all.

The problem with this is that the research and theory often included in MBA-style reports often does not translate into reality. I know MBAs who can tell you everything there is about the psychology of sales but who couldn’t sell a $50 newspaper subscription to a single person if they canvased an entire town. The same is true with social media marketers: they might have propositions about social media marketing that sound convincing but whether they can actually be applied successfully in the real world is a completely different matter.

Graphs look great, but the proof is always in the pudding, and most of the quantitative proof out there shows that social media marketing is failing to deliver a tangible ROI for most brands. The popular social sites .

The truth is that great brands don’t need to pay social media marketing “experts” to cultivate legions of consumers who recommend their products to their friends and family. Word-of-mouth existed well before the Internet; social media marketing “experts” who try to represent that they have some sort of formula for creating it certainly didn’t invent it. A great product, a great value proposition and a great story (with the means to get it out) are what brands truly need to cultivate word-of-mouth buzz. A social media marketing “expert” can’t create these out of thin air; bullshit artists are only required when a brand lacking those things is looking for some hot air.

Alisa ends her argument with:

Recently a leading global beauty brand divulged that last quarter they saw a

60% INCREASE IN SALES…and guess what, the only thing they changed in their marketing program was the addition of a comprehensive social media marketing/word-of-mouth strategy focused on engaging consumers in authentic one-to-one conversation.

Now, dearest Drama, that’s money you take to the bank. Fill up the Learjet, boys.

First, if you haven’t graduated from Lear to Bombardier or Gulfstream, you’re playing in the minor leagues, babe.

Second, I request that Alisa reveal the name of this “leading global beauty brand.” I follow the financial markets quite regularly and I have not noticed any of the major beauty brands announce a 60% increase in sales that they’ve attributed to social media marketing. Therefore, it smells like bullshit or yet another poorly-rationalized inference. For instance, what were their sales to begin with, what methodology was used to correlate a sales increase to the addition of a social media marketing initiative, etc.? For what it’s worth, one of my companies didn’t get a deal with a leading female products brand because the almost non-existent return it received on a MySpace campaign left the brand skeptical about trying additional experimental online advertising strategies.

Finally, since Alisa seems to think that I only advocate one-night stands, let me reframe this debate in terms of “real” relationships. Most men are familiar with the dreaded “Friend Zone.” When a man is pursuing a woman, he risks finding himself in the “Friend Zone” if he does not “make a move” within a certain period of time. Once a man is in the “Friend Zone” he will likely never be anything more than a friend to that woman. If that man refuses to recognize once he’s in this position, his efforts to become more than a friend are little more than a complete waste and most likely the source of much frustration.

In the context of this debate and my previous analogy, consider that making a sale is equivalent to getting laid. Alisa wants to obfuscate the subject by claiming that you can’t always “seal the deal” after a few drinks. I’m cool with that (not everybody is as suave as Drama 2.0, after all). But no self-respecting man is going to shell out $1,000 on dinner over and over again without getting something in return. That’s exactly the scenario social media marketing “experts” are selling brands. Why? Because they’re the ones eating the free meals.

At the end of the day, the marketer needs to get the consumer in the sack. Both a one-night stand and a committed long-term relationship contain one or more happy endings. So whether the consumer is dropping her panties after two drinks or after the third date, if the marketer cannot establish a sexual relationship and finds himself in the “Friend Zone,” he has failed.

To continue the analogy, social media marketing “experts” are like the friend you know who has been pursuing the same woman for years even though it’s obvious that she only sees him as a good friend. He wastes time, money and emotion pursuing something he can never have and even worse, this comes at the expense of opportunities he’s had with other great prospects.

To end Round 3 with a short left-hook to the rib cage, this is where snake-oil social media marketers end up:

This is where real marketers end up:

Again, somebody’s getting laid and somebody isn’t. No matter how you get there, that’s something you can take to the sack. Get out those Trojans, girls. .

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2 Responses to “The Social Media Debates: Round 3”

  1. elias on February 5th, 2008 11:28 pm

    she gets owned….again

  2. on February 6th, 2008 3:57 am

    […] Alisa Leonard, the “social media junkie” who I’ve been debating, initially emailed me, it was with a subject line “i love you.” How quickly love can […]

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