Friday, December 11, 2009

What's the Real Impact of Social Media

Michael Coppola, a professional acquaintance and the owner of the search-marketing firm Path Interactive posed an interesting question during a recent blog entry. Basically, he asks, is social media more hype than substance.

The basic thesis of Coppola's post was that if social media had an extensive quantifiable impact to businesses of all types, then most every business would be rapidly embracing it. Yet, social media still tends to dominate discussions among likely industries, including marketing and technology.

Another issue Coppola raises is that, unlike banners, pay-per-click ads and other familiar vehicles, it's much harder to quantify the value of spending time on LinkedIn. While that's true to a degree, I think it's important to bring this back to what marketing can and can't do. At its core, marketing is designed to give potential consumers of a product or service more information that they can use to make an informed decision. While you can incentivize people to "pull the trigger" and buy your product or service, they have to actually be a big enough believer to become a consumer. In that sense, there's not much difference from banners and pay-per-click ads than social media or traditional PR. For example, in a typical ad campaign, you can only really expect people visit your Web site, store, etc. If people weren't converted into buyers, there's a whole host of other reasons that were responsible.

The reason most haven't found success with social media is they're thinking of it as too much like a traditional marketing venue and not enough as a unique venue where the sharing of information is key. If you don't establish yourself as a trusted source and take the time that it takes to do that, then you'll likely see lukewarm success at best.

I'd welcome the thoughts of others and any relevant experience individuals would like to share.