Selling to the minority: How to sell social media to the sceptics

By Chris Lee

Even in 2013 it is a common complaint among PR professionals: “Our client just does not want to touch social media”. Despite maturation in social media marketing, a OnePoll study from late 2012 found that 13 per cent of UK organisations are yet to embrace social media.

According to Robert Ford, head of digital at Summersault, social is now too big to be ignored at board level.

“Initially, social sprang up and created a new communication channel that decision makers either embraced, feared or ignored,” he told NMK. “After a while, its popularity meant it became impossible to ignore. Now we’re at a point where social is maturing and decision makers can contextualise and evaluate its relevance in their own businesses.”

Value of social hard to prove, but the threat is not

The resistant sceptics can find a number of reasons not to embrace social, argues John Murphy, senior analyst at social business design agency, Bloom.

“Some marketing directors are still resistant to migrating to social, even those who are more familiar with social as a platform,” he said. “This is for a number of reasons: money, return on investment (RoI), attribution models and provable case studies to name a few.”

Murphy believes is it hard to cover every possible fear about using social as a marketing channel – as it would for any media channel – but it is reasonable to say that unfamiliarity with how social networks can work for marketing is a key symptom, he argues.

“The view can be is that ‘the rules of the game’ regarding social marketing are yet to be set, they keep changing and they will probably continue to do so,” he told NMK. “The end result is that there are no rules. This is in contrast to familiar models – traditional channels had solid rules; what can be shown on TV, how to store mailing lists, where to focus door drops etc.”

As long as these rules were followed, people were “safe”, Murphy argued, even if the campaign was not a massive success, it would not backfire. Now, the slightest breach and everything can blow up so marketing directors are sceptical, he said.

Convincing the sceptics

The answer to convincing sceptical marketing directors is to understand the difference between just “doing” social media and being a social business, Murphy advised.

Statistics from industry watcher HubSpot from late 2012 demonstrate that inbound marketing such as blogs, social media and search marketing provided better cost-per-lead costs than traditional outbound tactics such as direct mail, telemarketing, pay-per-click (PPC) marketing and trade shows.

“Brands who use social networks only for campaign-based marketing activity and without a thought on how they can use the campaign to inform their business strategy are missing out on key opportunities,” Murphy concluded. “Brands that have the know-how to use the data from the campaign – be it a successful or unsuccessful campaign – can extract invaluable insight about their customers, therefore providing new opportunities for brand positioning, messaging and identity.”

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