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Can brands use social media

June 17, 2008

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Social media is different. Traditional advertising was and still is, a one way medium. It’s a pitch. And it works well to increase brand engagement. The brands that do a good job percolate up in the brain when it comes time to make a purchase decision.

But social media isn’t one way. It’s a two way engagement. But not in the traditional sense that it generates a ‘response’.

And that’s the problem. The Internet grew up as a results based medium. The internet is immensely and wonderfully measurable. Websites are about hits. E-mail marketing is all about results. Banner ads are all about clicks.

That social media happens to be on this results based medium is a problem. Because if a brand starts a Twitter feed, or does a Facebook page, or creates a YouTube channel, if they base success on the metrics they’ve come to expect from the internet, they are asking social media to do something it isn’t equipped to do. Even if one measures the engagement of social media (ie, the number of fans), trying to determine the number of widgets sold based on the media is enticing. So is asking for the order.

Why not ask someone who is a fan on Facebook or a follower on Twitter for the order?

Because, obviously, social media isn’t a place to say go buy this widget. It’s a place to build a brand. And just because people seem one click away from purchase, one shouldn’t continually encourage that click. Because people don’t use Facebook, or Twitter, or YouTube with an expectation that someone will market them. They use it for fun — or novelty, which might be the case for Facebook.

It’s most-likely true that brands that engage in social media and ask for the order will be called spammers.  It’s not Spam in the traditional sense, but it’s a sales pitch that comes at an irrelevant time.

Social media could be to brand building what TV and magazines currently are. Even more. But not if it’s all based on a metric it’s ill-equipped to deliver on.

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