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Social Media doesn't work


Just like everything else.

Recently, a senior marketing executive at Coca Cola made the news by commenting that social media doesn't work, and that Coca Cola's digital efforts had negligible effects on short term sales (I wrote about it earlier here). He's not alone. Several brand managers have come out and said the same thing. And Bob Hoffman likes to constantly remind us that there isn't a single brand that has marked its arrival by being on Facebook (and other social media) alone.

This is because they spend little time understanding how things work in the social realm. It is similar to a B-school student who doesn't come prepared to a class, doesn't constructively participate, and then complains about the ineffectiveness of either the pedagogic technique or the professor herself. Just like a student ought to know that it is what she brings to the class that gets amplified, marketing executives ought to know that social media is all about engagement.

If the expectation from a social campaign is to increase click throughs, it is akin to barking up the wrong tree. Here's a really good article by Mitch Joel about setting the expectations right, and then putting in requisite effort to make social media work.

Another emerging trend is to rely heavily on data and metrics. On the surface, social media looks like any other, but with the added advantage of easily collectible customer data and measurement metrics. This has lead many marketing executives to apply advertising techniques that work in traditional media, understandably with similar expectations. The metrics and the data are driving the marketing efforts in social media.

It seems to have been forgotten that the data collection and analysis follows the creative for the communication. It is the other way around with most campaigns today. As Mitch points out in his article, social media doesn't work, just like every other medium, if you fail to understand how to make it work and then act upon it.

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