It’s Time We Admit Social Media Marketing Is A Joke
The only hope: let’s get back to the roots.
The best thing that ever happened to social media marketing was the hacking of the 2016 US Donald Trump election by Russia. Why? Because it reveals what many people in social media marketing have known for a long time: that social media platforms are a joke, their judgment is based on an imaginary user, and their integrity lies between Lucifer and the person who ate that person’s face. film.
For a marketing consultant like me, recommending existing social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is getting harder and harder, because -to put it bluntly- many of us don’t trust metrics.
And why should we? Facebook doesn’t.
This is from the 2017 SEC Facebook filing (emphasis mine):
Figures for our key metrics, which include daily active users (DAU), monthly active users (MAU), and average revenue per user (ARPU), are calculated using internal company data based on user account activity. While these figures are based on what we believe to be a reasonable estimate of our user base for the applicable measurement period, there are inherent challenges in measuring usage of our products across large online and mobile populations worldwide.
The world’s largest data management company said it didn’t really know if the figures were accurate. Estimation? What marketing professional wants predictable results after the fact?
It’s getting worse. My emphasis:
In the fourth quarter of 2017, we estimated that duplicate accounts probably represented approximately 10% of our worldwide MAU. We believe the percentage of duplicate accounts is much higher in emerging markets such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines, compared to more developed markets. In the fourth quarter of 2017, we estimate that fake accounts may have represented around 3-4% of our MAU worldwide.
Let it sink in. Facebook admits that “roughly” 10% of its monthly active users are fake. Interestingly, they did not mention what percentage of their daily active users are fake.
And that’s the problem with social media. You no longer know what’s real and what’s fake.
Social media wasn’t real for a while.
As marketers and advertisers, we pride ourselves on accuracy. In the marketing and advertising past, we were obsessed with tv show ratings, readership for print promotions, and delivery success rates for direct mail.
In all cases, the platform of the day was heavily audited. You know, with fair certainty, whether the audience is for a particular medium or channel because there’s usually a point of view somewhere for the numbers.
Traditional media such as radio, TV, and print have been around long enough that there are thousands of case studies to study the success or failure of individual campaigns. Because these media are part of the public record, it is easy to look back to see which mixes of media and budgets worked and which didn’t.
As an industry, we can quickly set benchmarks for success – not just based on our personal experience – but in the collective experience of very clear strategies that are open to everyone to dissect.
Well, it all went out the window with social media.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram numbers are always a joke.
In the past, company valuations were based on revenue, assets, and human resources, and performance.
That all changed when someone came up with the concept of “daily active users.”
The race for users is becoming a driving force for social media platforms in a way we’ve never seen before. Today, the obsession with user growth opens the door to advertising and marketing fraud on a scale that was previously impossible.
Let’s be clear: any platform that allows people to create thousands of fake profiles so others can buy likes, followers, retweets or shares is toxic to advertisers and brands.
Now, I understand that the word “allow” works a lot in that sentence, so let me expand on what I mean a bit.
I don’t think I’m going to get much of an argument when I say that – regardless of what I think about them – the most successful social media platforms on the planet are also some of the most advanced technology companies on the planet. They have -arguably- some of the best AI, because their entire business model revolves around the ability to crunch numbers, facts, and obfuscate chunks of data millions of times per second.
They’re also big companies, with armies of lawyers and IP bulldogs waiting to protect their brands from hostile outside forces.
So explain to me, how come, after everything we see in the news, people can still buy Facebook likes, or Twitter followers, or Instagram fans?
The reason: it’s always a scam. And we connect with other people.
If your company is judged on the number of your users and the activity of those users on your platform, what do you care if they are fake or not? If so, you will hire a fleet of auditors to ensure the integrity of your user base. I can’t believe they ever did and never will.
Social platforms spread their honey traps.
Initially, social platforms like Facebook and Twitter lured brands and companies to their platforms with the promise of free marketing and advertising. The ability to grow a fan base and followers quickly, without needing to hire marketing bastards like me. Why waste time hiring a professional when you can do it all yourself at no cost?
In the beginning, I was a supporter of this. I believe that marketing and advertising is often something only big companies can afford, and small business marketing is being abandoned. Social media marketing allows even moms and pop stores to compete online.
So many businesses spend hours and thousands of dollars in human resources growing their following online.
After luring them into their honey trap, social media companies then take followers and fans hostage. You have to pay to have access to the user base you build and grow.
Suddenly the numbers don’t make sense. You have to pay to promote or improve posts that were previously free. The result was disastrous for many businesses. ROI doesn’t add up, but with so many of their customers on the platform, they have little choice but to keep trying and get whatever value they can for them.
In addition, the move to such promotions opens Pandora’s box for further abuse. The drive for revenue appears to have caused social platforms to continue to look the other way at fake profiles and social media bots as they drive ad sales. Personal data is collected and manipulated in a way that is incomprehensible and unapproved by the user.
For the most part, it does something for marketing that I’m not sure we can recover from. For many digital marketing companies and marketing agencies, it has forced us to ignore Kool’s help with others. People who should know better are duplicating social media marketing for our clients when we know – for most of them – it’s not necessary.
Marketing and advertising agencies became accomplices after the incident.
As I said earlier, marketing and advertising agencies and consultants should be obsessed with accuracy. We want our clients to have the best ROI available.
However, like professionals in any business vertical, we are self-serving.
One of my favorite examples of how a person who knows better will say anything for money is a real estate agent.
Have you ever heard a real estate agent tell you that this is the wrong time to buy a house? In all my days, I’ve never read an article from a real estate agent that says people should put off buying. House prices going up? The right time to buy; You will soon be making your money back! House prices down? This is a buyer’s market! Lock your savings now!
Marketing and advertising professionals do something similar with social media marketing.
We see the popularity of the platform increasing and don’t want to get caught in the lurch. Rumors develop behind them, and clients often ask us to help them. So—even though Facebook and Twitter are largely unproven with little or no actual case studies to speak of—many companies are telling their clients to throw money into a social black hole.
What is the result? The majority of social media campaigns are disasters. I know of only a small percentage of companies that continue to take any seriousness on social media compared to the rates companies do with traditional advertising or even SEO and non-social digital advertising.
You see it in positioning. When digital marketers talk about social media, they talk about “reach”, “sighting”, “presence”, “awareness”. That’s the password for “waste your money.” Do an online search on the effectiveness of social media, and you will find great results
And I’m not the only one saying this. One of the biggest brands in the world, Proctor & Gamble, spent their advertising budget and left a number of agencies due to advertising and digital marketing scams.
Social sharing has turned off automatically:
According to Buzzsumo, the average social share per article has decreased by 50 percent in 2017 compared to 2015. Their data also shows how quickly most hot topics become saturated with articles, resulting in only a few winners getting the majority of social shares and hyperlinks. .
Another found that, bots automate almost two thirds-66%- of all HTML links posted on Twitter.
Again, if social media platforms really valued their user experience and cared about social beings, they would have banned such practices years ago. No more social automation. If you want to engage with your fans and followers, you have to be there for them. You have to be live, online, ready to connect.
However, bots are great for business. They increase their daily active user accounts; they make their platform look more popular than they are. Bots post content, bots like content, bots share content, bots follow people, bots message people – there’s no end.
Bots accounted for 52% of internet traffic in 2017. That number will only increase further as social media continues to become an arms race. Caught in the middle of all this are businesses that find their digital marketing metrics meaningful.
Your influencers are not that influential.
I am a big believer in influencer marketing because I believe it is a natural extension of relationship marketing. People will buy from people they trust and will take advice from people they like.
However, with the growth of online influencers, things have turned real.
First, many fans and followers of social media influencers are as fake as anything. Social media bots follow celebrities as a means to spam their pages and/or a means to scrape people’s lists to spam later with content.
Second, as marketers and advertisers, we should pay attention to accuracy. But the ability to verify an influencer’s fan base is nearly impossible within the platform. You have to open a third party app to try and get a real understanding of its legitimacy. In addition, however, you are under the authority of a third party to provide you with accurate data. If Instagram decides to turn off the API for this app, you won’t know how popular your influencer is.
The future of social media: live, direct and transparent.
The way to solve the social media problems we face today is simple: social media is great when it’s social and personal. Need to get back to basics.
No more automation
If you don’t have the time or energy or interest to truly ENGAGE with humans, then social media isn’t for you. What’s more, you are not for social media.
Automation has to stop. Period. Let’s return to the more natural interactions between brands, companies, customers and prospects. Human interaction is the most powerful driver of revenue and sales, as is the best metric for the true value of a platform.
Look and be seen
The use of live video to establish authenticity in an age where everything is anonymous will be the dominant driver of change in the next five years. Instead of hiding behind memes, and curated content, companies should leverage influencers and their employees to fight for their brands. Reconnect with the basics: one-to-one or one-to-many communication.
I firmly believe that most social media companies have faked books in terms of their user base, activity and popularity. It’s time for investors to demand third-party data audits before the whole house of cards falls on people’s heads.
Look, I’m a marketing consultant. I enjoy using social media. It allows me to stay in touch with the people and brands I care about most in the world. But at its core is a flaw -an error in the Matrix- that needs to be rectified.
There’s a bubble out there, and social media companies that allow fake profiles and anonymous users are at its heart.