Social media in marketing: lessons from a sceptic

Ryan Wallman
June 7, 2013

You have to love a world-renowned marketing professor who swears like a sailor and freely admits to sleeping fully clothed on those occasional nights when he’s had a few too many drinks.

Social media marketing Mark Ritson

I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve had a minor man-crush on Mark Ritson – in a professional sense, of course – ever since he taught me brand management at Melbourne Business School.

The reason is simple. Mark talks sense about a discipline that too often gets caught up in nonsense. So that’s what I expected when I signed up for this week’s presentation that Mark gave to alumni of the business school. And that’s what I got.

Here are a few of the things I learned from the presentation – which was entitled, in typically cautious fashion: ‘Ritson vs. Social Media’. Social media gurus, mavens and ninjas: you may wish to look away now.

1. Oreo didn’t ‘win’ the Super Bowl

Believe it or not, this was one of the claims made in the marketing media about the ad that Oreo tweeted during the Super Bowl blackout. Strange, really, given that its estimated reach was negligible compared to one of the traditional TV ads shown during the Super Bowl.

But what’s that? You never saw it and you don’t know what I’m talking about? Clearly, you’re not the only one.

2. Social media are (primarily) for people, not brands

This is hardly a groundbreaking assertion, you might think. But many marketers seem to overlook the fact that the operative word in ‘social media’ is ‘social’. Most people don’t want to talk to a brand, no matter how much they may be implored to – ugh – ‘join the conversation’.

3. The returns do not justify the magnitude of the spend

To give just one example, Coca-Cola recently reported that its social media activity had not led to any lift in sales. And although the company is continuing to invest in its social media presence, it is also, tellingly, winding it back relative to other media.

4. Just because it’s shiny…

Clearly, social media activities are all the rage for marketers. The campaigns are exciting and sexy. They get shared, they go viral, they win awards. And all you need to do is put a shirtless guy on a horse and ask him to spout non-sequiturs – take that, traditionalists!

But none of this should overshadow the need for a dispassionate appraisal of what social media activities actually do for your brand. Time for a cold shower?

5. Social media are not worthless

But they are also not the manifestation of a new marketing deity. Social media are indeed revolutionary in a broader communication sense, but in a marketing context they simply represent another medium. They are not somehow qualitatively different from every other channel in the marketing communications mix.

6. He still swears

Always in context, of course.

You can read more about Mark Ritson’s thoughts on social media marketing in this column from Marketing Week and this BRW article.

 

By Ryan Wallman, Head of Copy at Wellmark.

Connect with me on Google+ at +Ryan Wallman

 

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"Something the locksmith had not grasped, but which the IT company and consulting firms understood all too well, is the role played by justifying bullshit in the modern economy." Brilliant stuff from Rory Sutherland, as always. lnkd.in/fZJTjrh

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