There’s no doubt that social media is here to stay, one way or another. We’re bombarded with emails that offer “10 ways to generate leads and checklists to succeed with social selling” and social selling checklists that supposedly help brand social sites, pen a compelling LinkedIn profile, select and use specific words, tell stories, build a community, join conversations, curate and share helpful content, etc. And if that doesn’t consume enough of our precious time, there’s a whole lot more where that came from.
But does all of this activity pay off? Not as much as it could. Even the most prominent companies that sell social media apps and other social media-related goodies rarely if ever mention an ability to generate better business results, such as improved quality, service delivery or sales as a reason to buy their products or services. They promise activity. They promise information distribution.
One senior leader of a social media company put it into perspective for me. “We’re not trying to sell results. We want to sell more software.”
I pulled up the websites of some of the most prominent social media firms. Here’s how they describe their offerings:
- (Our product) “streamlines operations and enables mobile collaboration.”
- (Our product is) “a modern communications solution that integrates with existing systems, is accessible across devices, and provides insights to inform a compelling content strategy.”
- (We help) “empower employees by providing company content to share externally in a consistent and measurable way.”
- (Our product) “brings all your team’s communication together, giving everyone a shared workspace where conversations are organized and accessible.”
Not one mentions anything about improving something that employees, customers or shareholders care about., like sales, profitability, quality, downtime, on-time delivery, safety, turnover, absenteeism or process cycle time, for starters.
So, buying their products or services gets you a lot of information movement, but if it could also improve business results at a cost that’s less than the gain, that’s where the added value comes in. I suspect that transformation is on its way because at some point, social media platform providers will realize that creating real value through improved results is a superb differentiator. Distributing information as they do now is needed to get into the game. Improving results will help them win.
This reminds me of the Budweiser Clydesdales, those glorious steeds that have been part of the Budweiser brand since 1933.
Television advertising featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales has been around since the 1986 Super Bowl. The Clydesdales score high in USA Today’s Ad Meter which collects the equivalent of “likes” or “views” of ads. The ad receiving the most likes or views wins.
Budweiser’s Clydesdales ads follow the standard story method of setting the scene, introducing an obstacle and overcoming the obstacle so everyone either smiles or tears up. Click here if you want to test yourself with Budweiser’s all-time winning ad, “Puppy Love”.
http://adage.com/videos/budweiser-puppy-love/218 (Click play in the upper left corner.)
Some time ago I spoke with someone who knows something about Anheuser Busch’s ad strategy. After telling him how much I liked the Super Bowl ads he told me the ads are designed to win the Ad Meter, not necessarily to sell beer. After the Super Bowl, the ads change. They’re designed to sell beer.
So, the question of the social media folks—including communication people who buy their products—doesn’t it make sense to manage corporate money in a way that improves business performance. Shouldn’t your investment in social media help you “sell more beer?”
KEY TAKEAWAY: Social media tools are great for gathering information on activity, but not at translating the data to get bottom line business results. Learn to discern activity from results. It may help build or maintain a brand image, but don’t count on social media services and software to generate sales for you. At least, not yet.