What’s wrong with social media?


If I told you I was going to offer you a job where you failed 70% of the time would you take it?  Probably not. What if I told you that I know of just that type of position where anyone worth there salt would kill to be a part of that organization.  Any clue yet? Its Major League Baseball. They pay their players millions of dollars per year to hit a baseball three out of 10 times.  That’s it just 3. The expectations of hitting it 4 out of 10 times are so unrealistic that it is barely mentioned in conversations. It’s rarified air.

If you close 3 out of 10 deals or you are supposed to sell 10 cars and you only sell 3, should you keep your job?

Anthony Bradley from Gartner has spent the past year collecting  social media cases. he’s collected 200 solid social media cases out of over 350 cases, in which he’s tossed out those that either were not really social collaboration, or were clear failures.

His findings?

  1. Cases with good ROI metrics are rare.
  2. Cases with well articulated business results are few.
  3. Cases with activity metrics are more common.

Ok that’s worrisome.

While his research indicates that if you measure success by business results, the failure rate is very high, If you were to measure success by adoption rates (social activity metrics), which is what a lot of social media folk seem to be zeroing in on these days, the failure rate is still high. So regardless of whether you are measuring business results or adoption rates- the failure rate is still high.

What the hell are these people doing?

Interestingly enough, one of his sources for cases was the social software technology vendors, and by a large margin this group could not articulate the specific business value their clients gained by using their products. I find this odd since this would mean that they essentially did not have a) a business plan or b) were never in it to make money or c) just didn’t really focus on that measurement thing.

Again, what the hell are these people doing? Better yet, maybe we should ask, what are we doing? We’re the ones using this stuff. Are we fricken freemium zombies?

Paying baseball players millions of dollars to hit a curve ball 3 times out of 10 I get. There’s a business plan in there. But are we as a group collectively just following the masses down the path not really knowing where we are going but content to just go with the flow? Developers and users alike? Why would they build social tools or nets that failed the majority of the time?

Are we ignoring the fact that failure might be the most common trait in social media?

I still cringe at the thought of the business plan that’s wrapped around ad revenues, but apparently Web 2.0 still seems to be pretty comfortable with that, and not much more. I would think that one would do everything in there power to reduce the odds of failing, but this data right now or what Bradley is asserting, just doesn’t support that hope.

I hope the data is flawed. because if it’s not, I guess we will continue to invest in and support failure. In an open and transparent fashion of course.

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6 thoughts on “What’s wrong with social media?

  1. The big Corps can afford this madness; of playing or failing at Social Media Monetization…someone like me, I can’t afford it. Its gottah work or I will move on.

    Twitter as of yet, at least for me, has not converted into any measurable sales…Oh but the “Promise” that it some day might spurs me on…

    Stumble Upon…just seems to lead to spectacular traffic spikes – leading to high bounce rates, diminished time on site stats, and no sales…

    Still I Stumble, like all of us small sites…towards what we see as possible – Meaningful interactions with site visitors…who on occasion, buy something.

    My Alexa Rank 3 months ago was 2.9 mil, and as of yesterday it was 417K. My Google Page Rank is 3. Hub Spot Rates my site at 98.5%. To achieve this I personally have put in at least a thousand hours of my own time.

    This game is not for the faint of heart or for anyone looking to achieve anything like instant results.

    I am branding me, my unique perspective about the world of antiques and collectibles. I will succeed at this because I am the one who is in charge, no outsourcing here, no delegating of traffic to “Machines.” or Adwords.

    But here is the thing about the internet, and the way companies either do well or fail…I call it the “Remedial Frame.”

    If as a site owner one does not almost daily analyze, and remediate, then that site is doomed to fail at any meaningful conversion…

    And that’s where I find my self right now. In the analysis! And there is not much help out there for this, for someone who offers this analysis. Plenty of PR Marketers and so called SEO Optimizer’s who promise to get you traffic.

    Traffic is basically meaningless without a conversion strategy.

    Where dose one go to find a person who can analyze the tons of site data, so as to better understand the motivation of those who are coming to a site, in order to better serve them a product that they can understand, enjoy, and purchase.


  2. At the beginning of March, as I began to be more concerned that our Brick and Mortar store was not going to pick up as usual for the spring and summer, I also became aware that the hours involved in social media efforts seemed to not really be translating into much that was measurable in terms of sales. I just decided to take a hiatus and revert to my pre-social media business plan. April through September my total sales were up by 47% over the same period last year. And the increase all comes from internet sales. Store sales are still down from last year.

    Yes, I miss some of my internet friends. But the main point of an antique retail business is to sell things.

  3. @Pamela Interesting. A few questions. What did your SM efforts consist of? and How were you measuring those efforts? Don’t forget though that your social media initiatives are not the silver bullet, they are but merely a piece of the puzzle represented by marketing. I think what some don’t get and one of the things I stress, is the importance of knowing what the end game result is. For me and what I tell clients is to focus on something that some might take for granted. Search.

  4. @ Martin I agree, when you do have the cash to blow you have to be very strategic about how you spend your money and your time. As I told Pamela, in both of your roles, what really matters is targeted traffic that finds you via search. But as you said Martin, traffic is meaningless w/o a conversion strategy, so what is the call to action on your site? What do you want your visitors to do? Brochureware won’t cut it. So either they get something or you get something, but someone has to get something.

  5. Marc- Admittedly, I never had a very cohesive plan for my SM efforts. I did newsletters, a blog, twitted, moderated a group on an antique site. I did know enough to try and concentrate on being search pertinent. But I am even more search centric now than ever.

    For example, Julia Child is currently a hot search. I had had one of her cookbooks on my website and another here in the shop. The website piece I removed and added to my Etsy and sold in 8 hours. The other piece I have on Ebay and it got an opening bid immediately and has a slew of watchers…no social media necessary. And just the listing of those drove traffic to my website.

    Now I feel like if I know what searches are doing well and where I am most likely to find the type of person searching for the specif items I have, I am best off to spend my time making the things available. But what I was doing, and see other people doing all the time, is listing a particular item on their website and then trying to go out and drum up interest. I sometimes go to a retail website and there is almost nothing there, yet you can see the person all over the internet trying to drum up business. So it seems like they really are trying to brand themselves, but I am not sure that they are really trying to sell anything. Of course, I realize it is completely different if you are selling a service.

    On the other hand, I am sure that some of my SM efforts were helpful to my B&M business and that I have lost business by letting them slide. Customers did come in and comment about how much they liked my blog. But how would I make that a measurable effort?

    Overall, I need to figure out what would produce some results appropriate to the effort. It all still seems like a quagmire to me.

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