Social media is not a cure-all. Yet it is often treated as a marketing magic elixir. It can be difficult to sort the promise from the hype.
Jennifer Nelson kindly pointed me to a short book by Dan Zarrella, Hierarchy of Contagiousness, where he poses the question, “are you a snake-oil salesman or are you a scientist?”
In these early days of social media, there’s a lot of snake oil peddling. It’s easier to talk in generalities than specific outcomes. Metrics are often skewed toward a superficial number of friends and followers. ROI is considered a topic to avoid. As a result, social media programs are at risk of losing their credibility.
“If you’ve read about social media or been to any marketing conferences, you’ve probably heard tons of advice like ‘love your customers,’ ‘engage in the conversation,’ ‘be yourself’ and ‘make friends.’ I call this ‘unicorns-and-rainbows advice.’ Sure, it sounds good and it probably makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, but it’s not actually based on anything more substantial than ‘truthiness’ and guesswork.”
Zarrella recommends taking a scientific approach to social media, much as snake oil quackery evolved into real medicine.
“After centuries of superstition in medicine, along came real science — hard facts and real data about what works and what doesn’t. Medicine moved out of the Dark Ages, and scientists started making progress in the search for the causes and cures for diseases. Now it’s time for social media to move past mythology and into measurable outcomes.”
I like the idea that we are entering an age of science in social media. It will require thinking beyond the hype. That’s when the real magic happens.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post. I’ll pick one comment by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)