Social media marketing doesn’t matter. Or so says an article on MIT Sloan Management Review:
I argue that we have reached the same point with social media marketing. In terms of competitive advantage, social media marketing simply doesn’t matter. Having a presence on Facebook and Twitter is no longer sufficient to provide any source of competitive advantage for companies — not when all of their competitors have a presence on Facebook on Twitter, too.
Monitoring social media chatter and sentiment won’t provide any competitive advantage on its own, because all your competitors are monitoring the same content as you and can derive the same insights. Customers today expect to be able to engage companies over Twitter and other social media channels. Companies can certainly deliver better or worse customer service over these channels, just like they can over the phone or in person, but these challenges become questions of backend operations, not marketing. Social media marketing has become table stakes for competitive business in today’s world, not a source of competitive advantage.
The fact that social media marketing doesn’t matter is supported by the data from our 2014 survey of social business. Our data showed that using social media in other aspects of business — innovation, transparency into organizational communication, management and recruiting, and integrated into business operations — were all meaningful differentiators for company’s social business maturity and social business outcomes. Whether or not companies engaged in social media for marketing, however, had little meaningful impact on these outcomes.
He is correct that social media marketing has matured, even though most marketers haven’t figured out how to measure the ROI of their efforts on social media. But, social media marketing does matter.
It’s all in the eye of the beholder
A lot of businesses, though they may have a presence on social media, still don’t get it. I think most businesses equate presence with merely having profiles on the most common social networks. If that is so, then presence does not equal impact.
With that said, yes, people have come to expect that the brands they like will have a presence in social media, as well as ones that they don’t like. But that’s all, that’s what they expect.
And that’s where the opportunity lies: in what they don’t expect.
Take Caterpillar, and old and traditional company that appeals to a very specific audience. They may be old and traditional but they recognized and embraced a shift in how they could communicate with the market. So, their brand marketing team decided they would use social media not only as a marketing channel but also as a recruiting tool, by creating content that engages and excites people.
They came up with this:
Caterpillar makes stuff you and I will probably never ever use. Yet they found a way to make their offering fun not just for people who might want to work for Caterpillar, but also for you and me. That’s an act of creativity, not of doing more of the same!
Make the common uncommon
As I said, most businesses don’t get it. Not just social media, but also branding, creativity and innovation. So if a brand or business stands for more of the same, then yes; social media doesn’t matter for competitive advantage.
But if a brand wants to stand for something, and is willing to experiment with some untried ideas; there are no limits as to what you can do with social media to tell that story.
Remember: Perception separates the innovator from the imitator. It’s not just about how your brand perceives social media, but also how your customers perceive you on social networks. When everyone else is doing the same thing, that’s an opportunity to reset or redefine people’s expectations. Caterpillar used social media to make a common idea uncommon, you can use the same principle for your business. There are no shortage of ideas on how a brand can differentiate itself.