Message to Marketing: Your Social Media Sucks

by PR Coach on February 3, 2014

Earth to marketers… your social media sucks

Earth to Marketing…

When it comes to social media, is marketing really listening to consumers? If so, tell me why your social media sucks so badly?

There are thousands of reasons why consumers loathe old-school marketing. For all its promise, social marketing is not faring any better. We’re doomed if we don’t learn from the lessons and marketing mishaps of the past.

I’ve chronicled many marketing fails on this blog but let’s look at a couple of reasons why social media fails so badly:

  1. Marketing’s still shouting.
  2. Your ads interrupt us. Again.
  3. You never listen. Despite the many exceptional tools to help you hear us better on social media.
  4. You still think we’re stupid. Judging by social media standards, you still aim for the lowest common denominator.
  5. Social media is “social”?

The old ways of advertising were built upon interruptions. Way back when, we paid a small amount for newspaper delivery, radio and TV were free and the internet cost very little. In return, we allowed you to advertise at us.

Over time, these mainstream media channels filled with advertising, maxed out with marketing messages and saturated with irrelevance. Consumers simply started to tune out and stop subscribing. The only people surprised were those doing the same old things until it was too late.

Then social media arrived. Many channels, many screens and not very many advertisers. Until now.

So what have we learned since the rise of social media?

Not much, apparently.

No, social media is not an excuse to repeat bad practices of the past.

Social media sensitivity training

Okay. All you marketers. Gather around and join hands. It’s time for a social media sensitivity training session. We’re not going to get all Kumbaya about it. Let’s just remember five important lessons about social media marketing.

1. Social means “social.”

Learning how to use social media properly is not a challenge. It’s an opportunity!

2. Customers have clout.

Consumers have more clout and they’re not afraid to use it. You can run on social media, but you can’t hide. If you’re not responsive to customer complaints, product issues or poor service, Yelp and hundreds of other review and ratings sites could make your business miserable. And careless social media marketing or messages add to the potential for disaster.

Witness JC Penney’s senseless Super Bowl tweets and the piling on by other brands like Snickers. Catharine P Taylor at MediaPost and Aaron Taube at Business Insider capture the social stupidity nicely.

Or was it all a set up? In a funny way, JC Penney may have saved the day with more than 42,000 retweets and  it’s humorous recovery:

JC Penny tweets 2

3. Content shock?

Mark Schaefer recently posted about impending “Content Shock.” His view is we’re approaching the limits of our ability to consume the huge volume of content produced and aimed at consumers. He struck a chord that reverberated around the Internet. No doubt it also caused social marketers indigestion.

Native advertising and brand journalism are not an excuse for more screaming and shouting. We’re already seeing the effects of too much advertising on Facebook with predictable results. Teenagers are abandoning it.

The New York Times recently introduced native advertising to howls from news purists and delight by marketers with big budgets. We face a brave new world of advertising, media mistrust trust and shaky news credibility.

Twitter and YouTube are starting to load up with ads and other new channels like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr are not far behind.

It’s a predictable path from social media adoption and engagement to overload and abandonment. Those online shopping carts will soon be empty if media and marketers don’t learn from past mistakes.

4. Engagement matters.

Global social mediaStart listening. Engage us like you care. Really care. About poor customer service. Why I’m angry my product doesn’t work as advertised. How wonderful it would be to hear an apology for rude service, a response to a product question or a genuine request for help.

I guess that’s why we’re so amazed when companies do get marketing and social media right. Just look at Toms Shoes, Cirque du Soleil, Southwest Airlines and Amazon. Great products or services, sound communication, listening, conversations online and exceptional customer service. All enhanced in every case by social media best practices.

Can I  make a final point about social media marketing fails? QR codes are not, I repeat, not customer engagement.

Social media started out as a great experiment and a tremendous experience for early adopters. It’s now teetering on the brink of overload. While Mark Schaefer calls it content shock, I’m concerned about “content schlock.” There’s a serious lack of quality and way too much noise in the echo chamber.

In social media today, consumers care about overload. They’re hypersensitive and well-informed and they don’t like what we’re offering. We’ve still got such a long way to go and not much time to respond before social media suffers the same fate as traditional media!

You do care, marketers, don’t you?

How about you? Have you had enough of social stupidity? Glad to hear your thoughts below. And silly tweets aside, how ’bout those Seahawks?

Author: Jeff Domansky

Visual:  GraphicStock, JC Penney on Twitter