Two Dirty Little Social Media Secrets

I was intrigued by Marc Meyer’s post about social media marketing being too labor intensive.  He outlines a whole series of activities, from smaller things like creating listening posts and monitoring buzz, mentions and opportunities to bigger initiatives like creating and managing blogs, microsites using social platform providers, and broad community initiatives.  Agencies and businesses alike need to sort out the level of effort and costs required (not to mention roles and responsibilities for maintaining each).  I’m not trying to be a wet blanket, but trying to highlight reality a bit by sharing two topics you don’t hear about much when it comes to how successful social tactics are deployed.

1. More Successful Means More Expensive

As these tactics become more successful, they become more expensive.  These tactics require long term effort and can certainly can do more damage if abandoned.  But it takes more effort to continue to manage, build and grow, and that can mean more costs internally, at a minimum.  The effort can result in more resources, more media, more content – all of which have a price tag unless you believe people are free (in which case I’d like to hire you for my next project).

2. Hope is Not a Plan: Paid + Earned Media

A partner at Accenture I used to work with was king of pouncing on anyone who responded to a question with “I hope…”   His response was a sharp  “Hope is not a plan.”  This applies to social ideas too.  Even the most successful social media initiatives are likely combined with other marketing tactics – especially paid media and email marketing.  I’d be surprised to hear about social ideas that were grounded purely in the “hope” they will go viral alone.  What’s the quickest way for a brand to get fans (likes) on a Facebook page?  Engagement ads on Facebook with a call to action, or emailing customers with a similar call to action.  Companies like Rapleaf can tell you which customers are active in social networks – you can be precise on the call to action, but just building something social doesn’t mean customers will show up.  Li Evans wrote an excellent post recently about how social media marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, going deeper on other tactics like SEO and PPC.  Together these tactics magnify each other.

Am I just being Master of the Obvious again? Have an example that contradicts?  I’d love to hear it, and I hope I’m wrong.  Right, hope is not a plan.

Photo credit: movetheclouds via Flickr

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  • Adam, I remember telling someone and blogging about the point that social might be free, but I'm not…We can so easily equate this to the notion that anything done successfully leads to another set of “good ” problems. For example, selling lots of anything leads to increased labor, more customer service, additional management etc. etc. Thank you for pointing out that once your social media initiatives begin to take off-the work doesn't stop, it's really only just begun. As I was telling some folks during Beth Harte's weekly #imcchat- Some are more into the chase then they are into the curation.

  • Thanks Marc, and well put – “curation” is a great term that isn't often associated with social media. I think people are jazzed by “the big idea” more often than the long haul commitment required.

  • Adam, couldn't have said it better myself. The notion of social media being “free” is sort of like saying that doing e-mail marketing is free. While it's true that with enough elbow grease, one person can send e-mails out of their gmail or outlook account but to scale that effort is nearly impossible without more resources, services and tools. As you and Marc both point out, these are “good” problems to have because if you are scaling any of your marketing/customer engagement efforts, it means you're enjoying some success.

    To your second point about “paid + earned,” this is a critical point that we're working hard to impart to our prospects and customers. While earned media is ultimately the most valuable (and believable), without the scale and velocity that paid activities bring, it's tough to achieve critical mass in any meaningful timeframe. I've tried to highlight this concept in my recent “Tale of Two CMO's” series on my blog.

    Thanks for sharing the straight dope! Happy long weekend.

    Aaron | @aaronstrout

  • Nothing annoys me more than people who say that social media is free. Are you kidding me, with all the time it really takes to reach success? I almost passed out when I heard a woman with the Red Cross say those very words at an event. I had to discount her words right then and there. You know Adam, I think the issue here is that many people think that creating the outposts is where the success lies but that couldn't be further from the truth. Oh, I've seen abandoned efforts and it sure isn't pretty. You have to pay for this work, and success is never free. Good post.

  • Thanks for the feedback Aaron – your “Tale of Two CMOs” series really gives much more insight to what I am generalizing here (link for other readers to latest in the series:…).

  • Thanks for the thoughts Angela – couldn't agree more. Creating the outposts is 10% of the work, at most.

  • Well, it is obvious, but it also needed to be said. I think we can blame part of this attitude on @GaryV (love ya, man) and his overly simple explanation for social media success for the little guys. Of course, when reading into it a bit, it's also obvious that it does take a serious time investment (time = money, for all of us).


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