There's an old advertising axiom: "Where there are people, there's money."
Okay, so its not an old advertising axiom and, in fact, I just made it up. But it seems like the battle cry for those spending money in and around social media these days. I think, though, that advertisers are missing something when they go charging into the social media landscape all big-eyed with wallet wide open.
Yes, there are millions upon millions of people spending boatloads of minutes with social media every day. And yes, if you want to sell a product or service you have to go where the people are spending their time regardless of the format. But just because people spend lots of highly engaged minutes in this space doesn't mean those minutes translate directly into advertising gold.
So what gives?
First, none of the major players in social media have really figured out a business model that draws a straight line between folks spending time with their service and revenue. Don't believe me? Ask yourself the following questions:
- How much is each of your Facebook fans worth?
- What's the sales impact of a "Like" on your brand page?
- How many Twitter followers do you need to break even or make money on your social media investment?
Second, social media is a strange mix. It's a water cooler conversation, coffee klatch, family reunion, stream of consciousness, and ultimate narcissistic platform all rolled into one. It's the intersection of the sharing of troves of personal information over the world's most perfect advertising medium. But because we don't approach our water cooler conversations or narcissistic moments with the expectation to buy anything, we don't make it easy for advertisers to act on this perfect storm.
So what's an advertiser to do? They can't, after all, walk away from all of this great data being gathered from our social media activity, can they? No, and the good news is they shouldn't. But rather than trying to derive ROI directly from social media, advertisers should think more about social media as a space for consumer cultivation rather than conversion.
I know I'd be intrigued by offers based on insights into my life gathered from my social media breadcrumb trail. To me offers that are tailored to my needs are smart and thoughtful and something I'd listen to. And, yes, maybe even buy.