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Are we doing social media for the wrong reasons?

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 30th November 2010

Download our ten step guide to developing a sustainable social media strategy

Back in the summer, we released a benchmarking report looking at how UK tech companies use social media. We concluded that while many companies were entering into this new field with gusto, they were using social media in a very ‘traditional’ or ‘push’ marketing way and weren’t actually being social!

This, combined with anecdotal evidence we had picked up from companies that we have spoken to, suggested that brands and the marketers that work for them, were confused about this brave new world.

They know there is potential when it comes to the social web, they just often aren’t quite sure what this means and how they should go about benefitting from it.

This means you are left with confusion and half-hearted attempts that end up wasting time and resource with little measurable benefit.

Marketers confused by social media

So we decided to test this theory and ran some research to really gauge the thoughts and opinions of UK marketing decision makers. The results were very telling:

  • Marketers are failing to take a strategic approach to social media, with just 7% saying they were measuring the impact of social media and generating a return on investment (ROI).
  • While almost half of businesses have adopted social media, 15% said they are doing it so they don’t get left behind, 12% because they feel they have to and a further 10% because their competitors are doing it.
  • The vast majority of companies are failing to realise the full benefits afforded by social media tactics and are merely using it as an extension of existing marketing tactics with 10% saying they adopted social media as a press release distribution channel, only 5% saying they use it for market research and a meagre 6% saying social media is integrated with their marketing campaigns.
  • There is also confusion about the ownership of social media strategy; when asked which department was best placed to own social media, the PR team came out on top with 27%. Just one in five marketers said the marketing department should own it and a further 20% saying it should belong to IT.

To my mind, this reveals three very clear points:

  • Marketers (and therefore brands) are unsure about the benefits of social media
  • They are entering into the fray with a lack of clarity and with ‘old media’ mindsets
  • They are failing to measure social media

Taking these three points into consideration, it is hardly surprising that marketers and businesses are finding it very hard to justify or find a business benefit for social media.

Sustainable social media

It’s partly for this reason that we’ve been experimenting with a new concept at Wildfire recently. We call it ‘Sustainable Social Media’.

The background is quite simple really. Instead of rushing into social media without knowing exactly what or why, or rather than just tagging social onto every campaign idea you have (as I think many agencies and bigger brands are guilty of doing), we advocate a more strategic, long-term approach.

This means organically building and cultivating the very communities that will enable your social media strategy to thrive. It’s about putting in place business objectives and it’s about measuring the outcomes of these objectives to ensure that there is a return on your investment in social media.

It’s easy to get captivated by the latest shiny new marketing toy in town, but social media isn’t new anymore. It’s time for us all to take a more grown-up look and start making it a strategic and sustainable channel for the brands and businesses we represent and work for.

We’ve put together a series of steps that any business looking to develop a sustainable social media strategy should follow. You can download them here.