Is Social Media Marketing Worth the Investment?

In my last post, I mentioned that social media didn’t play a huge part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday online sales. In fact, Twitter didn’t generate any sales referrals at all. When marketing platforms take that big of a break during one of the biggest shopping days of the year, people start to question the usefulness of social media marketing.

Todd Wasserman over at Mashable has an op-ed about social media marketing, concluding that most of it is a waste of time because most brands are focusing too much on garnering likes and fans and not on the actual promotion of their products or services. A Facebook like doesn’t guarantee a sale. A re-tweet doesn’t guarantee a customer. A Promoted Post on Facebook can cost you $3,000 to reach 1 million fans, and for a brand that seems a bit ridiculous to shell out for a post that could be easily ignored. On top of that, brands have to worry about the ever changing world of social media. There has yet to be a “standard” of social media, or a stable example of a social media network. Facebook and Twitter are just our newest toys of communication. MySpace, from 2005 to 2008, was the largest and most useful social media tool on the internet. Facebook has had that title for four years so far, and but no one knows for sure how long Facebook will actually be around. Investing thousands of dollars in an unstable market seems a little too risky, right?

Back in June, Reuters had reported that 34% of Facebook users were spending less time on the website; only about 20% stated that they were spending more time. On top of that, 80% of users stated that they’ve never bought a product or service as a result of ads or comments on Facebook. Mix that with Facebook’s loss in marketing capitalization and you have a very unstable, uncertain marketing platform.

But, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Mashable, via BIA/Kelsey, reported that social media ads is projected to have an annual growth rate of 19.2% over the next four years. The researchers are estimating that social advertising will become a $9.2 billion industry by 2016. Then there is the success story of Samsung Galaxy S3’s three week marketing campaign on Facebook, where they spent $10 million on ads and generated $129 million in sales. Whether or not the Facebook ads are entirely (or directly) responsible for the sales is unsure, but it’s still impressive.

So what’s going to happen with social media marketing? Social media is an unstable creature, sure. Networks will come and go, boom and bust. That doesn’t mean that social media itself is going to go away, and that doesn’t mean that social media marketing isn’t worth investing in. Whether or not Facebook or Twitter will be here in five or ten years is inconsequential for the grand scheme of social media marketing; as I stated earlier, they’re just the current toys to use to reach the consumer. The marketing vehicles will change, but you’re still driving a car. Another thing to keep in mind is that social media marketing isn’t about the direct relationship between a product and the consumer; it’s the relationship between the brand and the consumer. It’s why @TacoBell is a popular Twitter account; not because people love Meximelts, but because @TacoBell has done a successful job creating a relationship with its consumers by engaging in social media. The platforms will probably always change, but the strategies remain the same.

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