Forrester Research: Blow Your Money on Social Marketing

Posted on February 11, 2008
Filed Under Marketing 2.0 |

Given my recent focus on debunking many of the claims about social media marketing and the viability of social networks as strong marketing platforms, I wanted to point readers of The Drama 2.0 Show in the direction of on the subject at E-consultancy.

In a recent free “report,” Forrester is advising clients to spend more money on social network advertising, especially as the economy falters. I think this is stupid advice and detail why .

What’s perhaps most interesting, however, is that one of the Forrester senior analysts who contributed to the report, Jeremiah K. Owyang, today published a post on his personal blog entitled “The Many Challenges of Social Network Sites.” Some of the things he notes:

Difficult to Monetize
Even Google says it’s having a hard time monetizing social networks, why? The use case is completely different. Members aren’t hunting for information like they do on a search, instead they are communicating with each other, and self-expressing. (We’ve data to back that up too). How bad is bad? “Marketers say as few as 4 in 10,000 people who see their ads on social networking sites click on them”

As Marketers Move In, Users Move Out
Remember Friendster? Tribe, or waay back and eCircles? Nothing is new, as communities form, marketers will move in, and in some cases bastardize the experience and the hip, cool, influencers will leave to the next network.

Untrustworthy Member Data
In many cases (I’ve seen reports of up to one-third) of users submit inaccurate information on their profile. As a result, marketing efforts will not be aimed at the right audiences, members continuing to be an elusive target.

Lack of Metrics Makes Success Hard to Measure
For many marketers who want to deploy a campaign on a social network, access to server metrics isn’t always available. As a result, they have to often visually monitor the interaction on the site, or measure click throughs to their site. In some of the more sophisticated platforms, a crude dashboard is provided.

I find it quite interesting that Forrester will advise marketers to increase their ad spend for social networks (and sell all sorts of reports further hyping social media marketing) yet one of the analysts who works on the report that provides this advice issues a post that practically debunks the report he apparently worked on for his employer. Things that make you go “hmmm.”

So how do you reconcile this? Perhaps by considering that Forrester, and firms like it, are in the business of selling reports. As such, I personally don’t believe that there is a single research firm that is truly 100% unbiased and objective. If they dismiss hyped trends like social networks there are a lot fewer reports to write and sell. After all, there’s far less money in telling clients that social networks are shitty marketing platforms. There’s a whole lot more money in telling clients that they’re viable and then selling reports that purport to tell clients how to leverage them.

The information from research firms like Forrester is not all useless, but in my opinion always needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In Bubble 1.0, research firms were issuing reports and projections that aligned quite nicely with the hype at the time. This just happened to be very useful to the MBAs who needed “solid stats” for the business plans they were writing showing how their new startups were going to soon be billion-dollar businesses. But we all know what happened.

The bottom line is that nobody can see the future and just because a research firm has an army of ostensibly intelligent analysts working for it doesn’t mean that the advice you are getting is realistic or sensible. It just means they can justify charging you $279 for their two cents.

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7 Responses to “Forrester Research: Blow Your Money on Social Marketing”

  1. SutroStyle on February 12th, 2008 8:56 pm

    Thing is, social network is like a TV show with a limited lifetime. NBC is smart enough to not create a permanent incorporated company “Seinfeld, LLC” - they know that the show is disposable, and will have to be replaced.

    Somehow dimwits like Zuck have not figured this out yet. Perhaps OpenSocial is a move in the right direction, and someone will figure out how to create a parent meta-structure, as individual social networks come and go. Zuck did it the other way around- he tried to buold an internet inside the internet, instead of trying to create a meta-structure ABOVE the social networks.

  2. Note to Tide: Detergent is Detergent : The Drama 2.0 Show on February 14th, 2008 1:41 am

    […] my recent attack on the absurdity of Forrester Research’s recommendation that marketers spend more money on social media advertising, I noted: …consumers may love […]

  3. Forrester: Online community best practices | on February 17th, 2008 10:43 am

    […] moment dat dit rapport verscheen, schreef de auteur een post op zijn weblog over de “vele uitdagingen van social media“. De conclusie die de drama 2.0 show daaraan verbindt is dat Forrester via de ene […]

  4. Michael Camilleri on February 18th, 2008 7:22 am

    This is hilarious and only goes to prove your point, I think:

    Today’s agencies fail to help marketers engage with consumers, who, as a result, are becoming less brand-loyal and more trusting of each other. To turn the tide, marketers will move to the Connected Agency — one that shifts: from making messages to nurturing consumer connections; from delivering push to creating pull interactions; and from orchestrating campaigns to facilitating conversations. Over the next five years, traditional agencies will make this shift; they will start by connecting with consumer communities and will eventually become an integral part of them.

    We are becoming more trusting of each other? WTF? Last time I checked word-of-mouth had been around since the dawn of time and was so powerful because we trusted each other. If it’s true that consumers are becoming less trusting of corporations it’s only because they try to pretend they’re our friends rather than just selling us the products that we want or need.

  5. Michael Camilleri on February 18th, 2008 7:23 am

    I should have said that quote comes from the executive summary of the report you linked to at the end of your post.

  6. Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang Babbles About Communities : The Drama 2.0 Show on April 10th, 2008 12:50 pm

    […] my past criticisms of Forrester’s “research” on the world of social media haven’t been enough […]

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