Social Media is BS

That’s right, I said it. Social media is BS. You might be asking yourself, “Why would she say something like that when she’s active on Twitter and probably gets most of her blog traffic from social media?”

Good question. It’s true that I get most of my traffic from social media. But when it comes to ROI, social media is BS.

I’ve been ruminating on this topic for a while. Back in December, Social Times ran a piece titled The Future of Social Commerce. I saw the post on – you guessed it – Twitter, and I was intrigued. I thought, “Finally! Someone is measuring the ROI of social media!”

Wrong.

Take a look at that post. Take a really close look at this part of the ridiculously humongous infographic:

social commerce infographic
OK, so I’ve editorialized here. But look at the circled text: they’re equating “having a presence” with driving sales. Really?

Back in the day, in another life, I did outside sales for traditional media. I can tell you right now that “having a presence” in a client’s place of business sure as heck did not equate ROI for me. Walking into a store or office won’t guarantee sales, and neither does “having a presence” in social media. People do not buy from you just because you’re there.

As for the comment “Meteoric rise of Pinterest demonstrates that Curation is the future of Social Commerce” – that’s just crazy talk. I’ll admit – Pinterest is cool, and I’ve seen several companies using it effectively. A few might even be making money from it. But because a bunch of scrapbookers and people with time on their hands have adopted Pinterest means it’s the “future of Social Commerce”? Give me a break.

I could go on and on. But what sparked me to finally write this post was a great post over at Search Engine Watch by Nathan Safran titled Can We Please Stop Hyping Social as the Marketing Messiah? Indeed. As of this writing, the post has garnered 55 comments. I don’t know how many comments the average SEW post gets, but as a regular contributor I can tell you that in 5 years of writing for them, I don’t think I’ve gotten 55 comments TOTAL. It’s a hot topic for sure.

Social media is also a nice shiny object. People are attracted to it because it’s new and exciting. But new and exciting doesn’t equal sales, either.

What do you think? Is social a bunch of hooey, or is it the future of commerce? Or something in between?

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More Great Marketers to Follow on Twitter

A couple of weeks ago, I published a list of the Top 10 PPC Experts to Follow On Twitter. Go check it out if you haven’t already!

Hot off the press today is an awesome list from my friends at aimClear of 52 Mind Blowing Marketers We’d Love to Clone and Adopt. The list runs the gamut from SEOs to PPCers to social media pros, and is basically a Who’s Who of online marketing. If you’re looking for new experts to follow on Twitter, go check out the aimClear list.

Disclaimer: I’m on the list, and am humbled by the inclusion. Thanks to Marty and crew for including me!

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The 3 Biggest Takeaways from SES New York

Yesterday, I returned home after a couple of days at SES New York. It had been years since I attended the East Coast version of SES – in fact, SES was my first search conference way back in 2003 in Boston, before they moved the show to New York. While I didn’t attend the whole show this year, I was there long enough to see a lot of friends and catch the buzz. So, here are my top 3 takeaways from the show.

1. The Bing announcement that wasn’t. The audience was buzzing about Thursday’s keynote by Yusuf Mehdi from Microsoft. Rumor had it that he was going to be making some big announcements about Bing. The room was packed, everyone waiting with baited breath. What were the big announcements? Maps. Lots of maps. Oh, and a partnership with Foursquare. Sorry, but this wasn’t news to me. I know a lot of people get into Foursquare, but I just don’t see the business value. In fact, I asked that question during the keynote: where is the business value in all of this? The answer? Businesses have more information about intent with these lovely features. I don’t know about you, but I won’t be rushing to Bing to put my clients’ ads on their Foursquare map.

2. Social media is where it’s at. There were entire tracks at SES New York on Social Media, and every session I attended was packed. People clearly want to learn about social media and how to make it work for them. I found, though, that most of the sessions were unfocused and didn’t stay on topic. For instance, the session on Social and the Marketing Mix was billed as a session on integrating social media with your other marketing – something that, in my opinion, is key to social media success. But the only speaker who talked about integration was Beth Harte. The other speakers talked about how to start a social media program, measuring results, claiming your name on social channels (hello??), and a bunch of other random things that had nothing to do with integration. That said, it’s obvious to me that social media is hot, hot, hot.

Side note: Call me old-fashioned, but I was really surprised at the number of snarky Tweets from the show. I’m sure some of them were deserved, but many just went beyond the pale – there was a series of tweets ridiculing someone for their outfit. I agree she looked, well, out of place – but this isn’t high school, this is a search conference. And tweeting about someone’s long nails on their laptop keyboard or the BO of the person in front of you isn’t really useful, either.

3. People still want and need to know the basics of PPC and SEO. I was shocked at how many people I *didn’t* know at this SES – in fact, the only people I recognized were the other speakers. (Quick detour: I remember being at SES Chicago about 5 years ago and accidentally sitting at lunch with a bunch of the speakers. I felt totally out of place and embarrassed. This time, it was the exact opposite – I ended up having lunch in the speaker room because there were no seats in the Grand Ballroom, and I didn’t know anyone there anyway. I don’t know if that means I’ve arrived, or if the audience has really changed. Anyway…) The Fundamentals sessions were very well attended. My good friend Matt Van Wagner told me that his Paid Search 101 session was packed. He started out with the real basics: what PPC is, how it works, etc. I asked him if that was too basic, and he said, “No. I told the audience to let me know if it was too basic, and they told me that it was just what they were looking for.” I had a similar experience in my Paid Search Site Clinic – several of the attendees weren’t even doing PPC yet – they wanted to know how to get started. Maybe this shouldn’t surprise me, but it does.

Well, there you have it – my 3 top takeaways from SES New York. I actually have a fourth: food poisoning. Yes, this makes the 3rd time I’ve come home from the East Coast with food poisoning – not sure what that’s all about…. Alas. What are your biggest takeaways from the show?

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Michigan State Spartans Logo – Social Media Fail?

If you’re a college sports fan, you’ve probably heard about the controversy over the leaked news that Michigan State was considering a new logo. Apparently, a fan found out about the possible change when the university filed with the US Trademark Office – and that’s when the proverbial poop hit the fan.

Spartan faithful took to social media channels, including Facebook, to voice their displeasure with the new logo. The fan page “The Old Spartan Logo” amassed over 60,000 fans, all protesting the change.

Late last week, the university caved to the pressure and announced they’d be keeping the existing logo.

I like the existing logo, and thought the proposed new one was ugly. But that’s not the point. The online marketer in me wonders whether the university could have handled this better.

Social media and crowdsourcing are powerful forces indeed. Many claim that Barack Obama won the US Presidential election on the back of social media, and that’s probably true, at least to some extent. But many also claim that John McCain lost the election due to his campaign’s failure to mobilize social media. Could Michigan State have experienced a similar social media fail?

I think they did. These days, news leaks like the new MSU logo are commonplace, and organizations need to be prepared. Instead of joining the conversation, MSU tried to ignore the problem, perhaps in hopes it would go away.

But, like a nasty virus, it didn’t. The university’s attempts to brush off the controversy by saying it was “too early” snowballed into MSU men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo going off on a 6 minute tirade on why fans should, in a word, shut the heck up.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Tom Izzo, and he’s done a boatload of good for the university’s image. But was he really the guy to speak up about the new logo? No. MSU’s official spokespeople should have joined the social media conversation and played up the potential change, explaining the reasons behind it. In brushing it under the rug, they broke one of the cardinal rules of social media: Don’t close your eyes to what’s going on around you. Join the conversation. Embrace it. As Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media says, “at the end of the day, it is he who is smart enough to act (and act quickly) that reaps the biggest reward.”

MSU neither was smart enough to act, nor acted quickly. In the end, they caved to fan pressure and decided to keep the new logo. But instead of getting involved and getting fans into the game, they chose to first ignore, and then condemn them.

And that, my friends, is a social media fail.

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