More and more people hang out on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other of these so-called social networks. With some 1 billion friends Facebook is the undisputed leader. Did I say friends? A colleague of mine recently drew my attention to a basic requirement for a net to work: to catch fish it must be hung up at least at three points. However, the reality of these media usually is that the “talk” is but with one dialogue partner. This rarely produces a creative dialogue among peers, and the result mostly is a monologue and increased noise in the internet.
Time ago someone smartly observed that all of our online activities in the end invariably chase the same goal: that we meet in the real world. Quite right.
Our customers regularly require us to develop communication and acquisition campaigns for the top 500, top 1000, or top 5000 advertisers.
For consumer goods the web, in this case the social media, certainly is a rewarding channel for – unlike as with printed material – the response can be measured directly. In addition, the Internet serves the purpose of what is described as crowd sourcing like no other medium. As a matter of fact, the worldwide web offers unprecedented opportunities to let the customers have their say. Given an appropriate investment, this still is the best sales tactics, even today.
The situation though is quite different for companies and brands that operate in the business to business sector. For them, social media campaigns are usually too expensive and the so-called waste coverage too high. Anyone interested in an efficient and effective marketing strategy generating real sales better sticks to tried and tested communication basics:
Brand: any fool can put on a price reduction, but it takes brains and perseverance to create a brand.
David Ogilvy was right: when developing a marketing campaign it is worth to ask yourself where you want to be with your brand within 5 years. And what means you want to invest to reach that goal.
Public relations: What many companies fail to understand is that communication is not a one way streeet, unless one is keen to wither it away to a monologue. Good communication is key to the adequate perception of a brand but it is not a magic recipe for poor products’ cosmetics. At times silence might be the best way to communicate. In the words of Helga Schäferling: sometimes you have to be very quiet to be heard.
Internet: limits to growth. The estimated global spending growth rates between 2011 and 2014 for online advertising are 17.2%, 17.5%, 12.7% and 12.9% (forecast by Gulf.com). This contrasts the growth rates of around 1% in print advertising and shows the large disproportion in growth between online and print advertising. According to this same forecast, in 2013 some 106.1 billion U.S. dollars will be invested in online advertising and 552.5 billion in other media. Not surprisingly the U.S., the United Kingdom and Canada are among the countries with the highest online spending. With concern to marketing and technology the Anglo-Saxon countries traditionally lie ahead. Nonetheless, television still holds the lion’s share of advertising, notably consumer goods advertising. But consumer goods advertising is expensive, and companies in the business to business sector generally have no such generous budgets.
Social networks: whisper, whisper. Only about 10% of all “talks” are online. The lion’s share is among partners (27%), family members (25%) and friends (10%). This shows us that “face to face” still is the most popular way to communicate, and presumably will remain. Despite their superiority with concern to speed and cost, online media increasingly harbor pitfalls for the inexperienced. Painful pitfalls, as the one ran into by the former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, a well-known member of the pop industry and quasi inventor of public relations. When she sought to embellish the achievements of the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher after her death to get publicity she was forced into a pitiful retreat. She simply misjudged the mood of their fans when she tweeted: “Thinking of our first lady of girl power, Margaret Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter who taught me anything is possible.” The protests of her fan community for glorifying the controversial former politician with the “girl power” label were so massive that Halliwell had to withdraw the tweet.
Anyone who is thinking about using social networks in marketing would do well to consider whether to do it with professional support. As with any good communication, the golden rule is: not say much, but say it right. And for any online marketing campaign, internet and social networks just remember: the most successful strategy is the one that integrates different channels.
P.S: But the main question that keeps us and our customers busy is: where does the next sale come from? The answer usually does not come from social networks or your marketing department. It comes from your sales staff. We train them. Let’s talk about it.
Urs Seiler / www.smartville.ch