The Social Media Myth

Published: 16th March 2015

Social Media ImageRemember when babies were born, meals were made and people partied without the need to have these events instantly chronicled? Remember when we had a wide variety of emotions: blessed, depressed, excited, elated, annoyed, and angry without having to let the whole ‘world’ in on it? Or how about when supporting a cause was more than just signing a petition?

It wasn’t that long ago, was it?

Approximately 10 years ago we lived our lives without stopping to update and relive experiences via the parallel universe of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Weblog, etc.

Let us begin with a small disclaimer: This isn’t a post about ‘the good old days’.

Wise folks and philosophers have told us that the ‘good old day’s’ don’t exist and it’s just something old people say to come to terms with an ever-changing world that they can’t keep up with. It’s a waste of time to think of the past with nostalgic longing.

We have to work with what is, not what was.

What we have noticed is that businesses nowadays – whether big or small – are expected to have a strong on-line presence regardless of the industry they’re in. This presence is expected to not only thrive with ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ but to magically turn that engagement into enquiries and sales. After all, ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ are nice, but we all know that ‘nice’ doesn’t pay the bills.

As copywriters we work with many different businesses. From bakers to boilermakers, artists to architects. All of these people are expected to (at a minimum) have a Facebook Page that they update regularly. Some social media experts recommend updating as many as 3-5 times a day! These businesses may not be that savvy at collecting a cult following, but are often brilliant in their particular field. They all of a sudden have to be able to (a) get followers and (b) keep them engaged with new and interesting content day-in-day-out, week-in-week-out. It’s not enough to just have your mum comment, “Well-done son. I always knew you were special.”

Additionally, Web Developers are telling us we must all have a blog.

We write this post acknowledging that we’re a part of this new way of doing business – not separate from it. So, evidently, this is a blog critiquing blogs. The irony is not lost on us. We get it.

The funny thing is that blog posts aren’t even necessarily about audience engagement anymore. You just have to have one! Audiences are experiencing information overload, Facebook fatigue – but the experts say, “Have a blog” so like obedient little puppies, everyone does.

The upshot of this new world is that a large percentage of our working-week, which would otherwise be spent doing our actual job – or developing our craft – is now spent on the social media circuit.

But is this an effective use of our time?

We’re still trying to figure this out.

We’ve heard from many business owners that they’re “time poor” – but these same businesses still make time to update Facebook & Instagram with junkie like enthusiasm.

Bigger businesses – with more generous budgets — are employing full-time social media experts to take care of it for them! It’s a whole industry that marketing companies are making a motza out of. Heavens to Betsy! We’ve even told you that we can manage your Social Media for you! So we know there’s a need for it.

For some businesses (and rock stars) Social Media is their other business. They’ve leveraged it to generate brand awareness, customer loyalty, crowd-fund for various initiatives, promote, and generally showcase their brand personality and product. It’s working! And this is all free-ish marketing (not withstanding sponsoring and boosting). However, this scenario is the minority.

For others, it doesn’t seem to accurately reflect what goes on behind the scenes of their business.  We recently did a copywriting project for a successful large scale company that works with manufacturers all over the world. But their social media presence was virtually non-existent. Under 200 Facebook followers (with infrequent updates), no Instagram, no Twitter or Pinterest. This suggests that something else is generating their business.

Maybe they just make a really great product?

Maybe they have a terrific work ethic?

Maybe they are passionate and go above and beyond what’s expected?

Whatever it is that’s made them successful chances are social media played little or no part in their success.

Could it be possible that the emperor has no clothes?

Bob Huffman of The Ad Contrarian says this:

“First, let’s get rid of the delusions. While social media marketing is a nice way to keep in touch with your customers and a nice way to respond to customer problems, overall it has been a flabby failure at building brands. While there are certainly some cases of social media success, in most categories social media marketing has had little to no effect on business growth. Without going through a whole lot of argument on this, just do an experiment to prove it to yourself. Go to your neighbourhood supermarket and cruise the aisles. Make a list of all the products and all the brands that were built by social media marketing. The answer will be somewhere between zero and nothing. There are, however, certain categories in which social media can be substantially influential. These include restaurants, hotels, certain consumer services, and travel-related categories.”

For us, social media hasn’t generated much work. Mostly, word-of-mouth and face-to-face conversations have worked far better. Our website does a lot of the heavy lifting for us and some of our biggest jobs have come from people randomly stumbling across it. If a client is considering working with us – the website usually ‘seals the deal’.

So, why do we use social media?

By Jingo uses it to stay in touch, swagger a few accomplishments, remind people that we’re still about town, provide our website with fresh content via our blog (like we’re doing right now), and to “like” “share” and “comment” on other people’s triumphs and disasters in their business.

We’ve noticed that other than several big shot copywriters – who make social media really work for them – most copywriters aren’t really giving it the time of day. They are busy making other people’s words work for them. They’re, like us, just offering social media as a cursory nod to stay relevant.

Over to you…

What are some of your experiences with social media? Do you find it frustrating or fantastic? Have you noticed a marked increase in enquires and sales via social media?