Four Reasons Your Social Media Marketing Campaign Sucks

Listen; engage; develop.

That’s the three-step approach we recommend companies take when it comes to approaching social media marketing activities for their organization. While you’ll hear nuances in terminology and small differences in approach, you’ll see thought leaders in our industry take a similar approach. Brian Solis, for example, talks about “listening, observing and learning” as the bedrock steps in organizational use of social media in his book “Engage” (which I’m currently reading).

You know what you don’t see anyone recommending? Build, promote, abandon.

However, we’re still seeing social media marketing campaigns built with this implicit process. A few tell-tale signs when we encounter them:

  • A short-term focus, often manifested in a desire for “disposable properties” and a reluctance to sustain any kind of presence after the end of the campaign.
  • The desire for campaign-based tactics with no existing presence of any kind.
  • A one-way broadcasting focus, aiming to blast messages out to the target audience.

Granted, a campaign-based approach can work with specific influencer outreach, but it’s far more effective if the team doing it is able to reach out to those people consistently over a long period of time and hence is able to build a relationship with those people. In general though, the problems with this approach, and the reasons that you don’t hear anyone advocating for it, are four-fold:

1. It takes time or money to attract an audience

Social media tools don’t just let you flip a switch and reach thousands or millions of people. TV, radio and print advertising lets you do that; Facebook, Twitter and blogs don’t.

Social media lets you identify, create and tap into communities of like-minded people. However, this doesn’t happen organically overnight. So, any campaign that starts from scratch and aims for quick results needs to be supported by other forms of media in order to drive people to the social properties in the hope that people engage. This is often counter to the organizational goal of a campaign: driving to a single conversion point, requires resources to be diverted from the primary goal and in doing so reduces the ROI of the campaign.

2. You build an audience, only to throw it away at the end

As I just mentioned, it takes either time or money to build an audience through social media tools. By scrapping the properties you’ve developed at the end of the campaign, you’re throwing all of that investment down the drain. That’s like building an email list then deleting it as soon as you’re done building it.

A much better approach would be to drive people to a long-term property which you can adapt and tailor for short-term purposes, for example a long-term Facebook page or a corporate blog. That way you can foster and continue to engage your community over the long-term, with the benefit of increased loyalty, further conversions and improved perceptions of your brand. What’s more, next time you have an announcement or campaign, you’ll have a pre-established group of people there who have opted-in to receive your updates.

3. Social media is earned media, not paid media

Much of the problem stems from the mindset of the people who often drive the social media bus in corporations. If you think back to our social media marketing ecosystem and Forrester’s breakdown of media types, marketers are often most used to paid media – immediately scaleable and controllable.

Social media isn’t primarily paid media – it’s owned and earned media. Often these lines may blur – you may do interesting things with your owned properties (which are long-term relationship builders) while earning attention in other forms of media with your approach there.

Trying to fit a paid media approach to earned and owned media is akin to trying to saw a plank of wood with a hammer. You’re doing it wrong.

4. It’s one-way, not two-way

These campaign-based approaches still take the old one-way approach to engaging online – do something funny or interesting in the hope that it will “go viral” and reach thousands of people. There’s some value in doing that, but there’s so much more potential to social media that companies really only scratch the surface if they take a purely campaign-based approach to social media.

For example, where’s the potential for business process redesign, product enhancements or customer service improvements in a siloed promotional campaign? There’s very little – which means you’re missing the bigger picture. You can use these tools as one-shot promotional tactics, but you’re missing the forest for the trees if you do so.

Do you agree?

Simply put, campaign-based social media without the basic foundation of an ongoing presence to support it is, more often than not, doomed to fail.

What do you think?

  • I was a member of a paid community (subscription based social network from 01-09) then they abruptly closed it down. The problem with the site was even though they had a community they were always ignoring it. They would never update the website or follow through with promises they had.

    The ironic thing is this was before Facebook and Twitter and when they finally hired a social media coordinator who could bring the site back to its heyday they closed the site. Which they had brand ambassadors and everything. They could have learned so much more and since they were making a small amount of money off the site they could have had a gold mine of everything.

    This site was raising a lot of money for charity with events, bringing in people from all over the world before Facebook and Twitter. So I know about a community which was closed. It is a really sad situation when you think about it.

    Plus, this community did wind up having a lot of one way communication in it too. We would never know why it was not updated or anything. So I can tell from personal experience why it would be a bad campaign. Even if it was pre FB and Twitter.

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  • Lauren

    REASON #5:
    YOU’RE WASTING TIME MANUALLY PROMOTING ON FACEBOOK!!!

    [link removed by admin]

    Unlimited mass messaging, commenting, liking, adding, etc without getting banned!

  • “Simply put, campaign-based social media without the basic foundation of an ongoing presence to support it is, more often than not, doomed to fail.”

    I pretty much agree with this conclusion and the points which precede it. A “campaign mentality” when it comes to social media can be a likely cause of death. There are times, perhaps when a campaign surrounds a news event, that social media may have a short and intentionally limited life span.

    But creating a presence and having a longer timeline with slow and steady results instead of an immediate but short-lived flash in sales or traffic is key. Good article, Dave.

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  • I’m about to launch an iPhone app and I know how important marketing will be with well over 200,000 apps now available. One must not rely on iTunes search to be found.

    What a great post. I feel like I’ve just spent a couple of hours at a seminar but never left the breakfast table and didn’t pay a cent.

    Thanks very much.

    Paul Kaufmann

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  • Remember when there were way fewer marketing and PR types singing the praises of social media? It was almost like being part of a secret club. We expermented, discovered, exchanged with one another… and fundamentally respected the new world we were exploring. We were passionate .. actually interested in this communications shift.

    Now social media has hit the mainstream. Which is great. Clients are interested in it and the rest of our industry is starting to try it out for themselves.

    The problem is that they’re trying it out without taking the time to understand that social media is about tribes. It’s about conversation. It’s a long term initiative, not a short term fix or a flash in the pan campaign that should go *viral*.

    I’m of the opinion that you’re not qualified to advise your client about blogging, podcasting, social networks/media and the rest of it unless you’ve actually jumped in yourself with both feet. Otherwise, it’s like teaching a child to do the backstroke when you’ve never bothered to get into the pool (deep end or otherwise) yourself.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love that I don’t feel alone in the desert anymore. I just hope that clients who are being led down the social media path by those who have jumped on the bandwagon without taking the time to understand it don’t get turned off and become cynical/jaded.

  • Remember when there were way fewer marketing and PR types singing the praises of social media? It was almost like being part of a secret club. We expermented, discovered, exchanged with one another… and fundamentally respected the new world we were exploring. We were passionate .. actually interested in this communications shift.

    Now social media has hit the mainstream. Which is great. Clients are interested in it and the rest of our industry is starting to try it out for themselves.

    The problem is that they’re trying it out without taking the time to understand that social media is about tribes. It’s about conversation. It’s a long term initiative, not a short term fix or a flash in the pan campaign that should go *viral*.

    I’m of the opinion that you’re not qualified to advise your client about blogging, podcasting, social networks/media and the rest of it unless you’ve actually jumped in yourself with both feet. Otherwise, it’s like teaching a child to do the backstroke when you’ve never bothered to get into the pool (deep end or otherwise) yourself.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love that I’m not alone in the desert anymore. I just hope that clients who are being led down the social media path by those who have jumped on the bandwagon without taking the time to understand it don’t get turned off and become cynical/jaded.

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  • Agree with this post and offer the idea that in traditional PR many people work pushing information/product/service in one-way conversation mode. Social media brings with the the implication of conversation being two-way and often companies don’t know how to approach that.

    As with any community/friendship-building it’s about engaging with your audience and that’s an ongoing effort. Is the ROI worth it? Sure…but you can’t measure it in a period of a month or two…but if companies take the time to really build that online presence, nurture their community and focus a little more on two-way conversation when they are ready with a campaign they’ll see the results.

    How you measure those results is a WHOLE other topic but I’ll leave it at that for now. 🙂

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